Main character – check
Love interest – check
Antagonist – check
Supporting cast members – check, check and check
Tally up the point of view (POV) characters – 5
This goes against the 4 POV limit, but we’ll live. Or most of us will live. By the time I write the fourth chapter, I already know how one character eats it in the end. So, technically, I’m dealing with four characters and a walking corpse.
Discover that the walking corpse actually resembles a walking corpse on the page. He’s as dead as a red-shirted Star Trek character. There’s no life to him, no color and no reason for us to care about his death.
Try to force personality into the corpse, but find that the doomed character refuses to cooperate. By heaven, he’ll be heard on his terms and not mine!
Take a week off.
Get back to work, pushing forward with the rough draft, and try to ignore the scent of decay coming from the corpse in the corner. (I might try spraying some Febreeze on him, but at this point he’s taken to plucking his toes off like some gruesome rendition of; “She loves me, she loves me not.” Which I find highly disturbing, so I just try to pretend he’s not there.)
Nearing the end of the draft, Point of View character number 3 gets hit by a flying ax. Instantly dead, this character’s abrupt transition into the Netherworld is tragically beautiful. The lack of his voice on the page is so startling that I can’t write for the rest of the night.
The corpse in the corner increases in stench exponentially. I find him playing dice with his rotten toes, smirking at me as though to say; “So why did that character matter so much more than me?”
I toss and turn in fitful sleep that night, my corpulent character looming at the foot of the bed. He’s getting impatient now and I can sense it. I’ve finally reached his death scene, but find that the whole thing reeks of a setup.
Beat my head on my desk a few times. Complain to my cat, who purrs and assumes that I want to drag a ball of yarn around for him. I don’t, but I do anyway, all the while glaring at the computer screen from across the living room.
Complain to friend, who has come to the point in our relationship where she just smiles and nods, hoping I won’t ask a question at the end of my crazy rant because there’s no way she understands it. And she’s lucky, because I already know the problem with my much-adored work in progress. The truth is, I’ve known it since chapter four, when I spied the death of this character.
I didn’t care about the walking corpse because I knew the end of his story. I never explored his personality, his tastes. I never saw the way he lingered in the library, staring at the books with a longing that’s all too familiar to me. He was dead before he got to live on the page.