Recently, I’ve gone back to working on my first YA novel. I have had a long journey with this novel (five years to be exact), continually tinkering with it, simply because the novel hasn’t been good enough for me as an author to send out. I was continually changing viewpoint, never completely satisfied, and I couldn’t understand why.
After having kept some distance from this novel, I could always look at it with fresh eyes. Sometimes, however, as authors, we can still be too close to our work. We need a different set of eyes to tell us what we can’t see. I was told by an expert through a critique that the protagonist of this novel was ‘not quite there yet’. My main character obviously needed more work. The only way to go about it was by simply asking questions.
I made a list of all the characters within the novel, including minor ones and began interviewing them. As I worked on this technique, I found myself getting inside their heads more and discovering what made them tick. Along the way, I discovered that the second most important character within the novel was crying to be heard. The best way I found for me to do that is to write in first person. I began writing her words, continually asking her questions along the way. By doing so, I wondered if she would become my new protagonist, however, my entire story would change, and that was not the story I intended to write.
By using this technique, I discovered new things about some of the minor characters, helping to add more conflict to the plot. All that remains now is to use the same approach on my protagonist. I’ll just have to ask the right questions.