Friday, June 22, 2007

And finally: Revisions, Part 4

If you've been following my Tale o' the Revisions, I've been talking a lot about subplots. And yes, they are what needed the most work in KNAVE'S HONOR. But alas, my main characters did not escape my Esteemed Editor's keen eye.

Well, the hero did, for the most part. There were one or two small points to be fixed, mainly by the simple remedy of removing a sentence or two here or there. No big whoop. I attribute this to my own familiarity with the character, who first appeared as a secondary character in MY LORD'S DESIRE. He and his motives were very clear in my mind right from the start. If you've read the book, I hope you remember the Irishman.

I first introduced the heroine of KNAVE'S HONOR, Lizette, in that book, too. Not in the flesh, so to speak -- by name and a key point that influences a major decision by the heroine of MY LORD'S DESIRE. Lizette's mentioned again in THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT, and once more something she's said in the past plays a key part in one of Gillian's decisions.

We finally get to meet this influential young lady in KNAVE'S HONOR.

Since I've known her for awhile, and based on that influential statement both past heroines refer to, I had a pretty good idea of this character and her motives. I've done a few heroines somewhat like her before, most notably in TEMPT ME WITH KISSES, and THE OVERLORD'S BRIDE. One of the important points about those heroines was that they liked making love and had no big hang-ups about it. In my mind, Lizette was the same. She's curious and she's interested, although she has good reasons for not giving into temptation -- and the hero's some tempting. However, she's definitely not about to head off to a convent any time soon.

Now, this is not always the easiest heroine to tackle. I did have concerns that she might come across as too outrageously bold, so when EE suggested back in the proposal stage that perhaps she be more tentative in certain situations, I agreed. And I gave it a go.

Here's what happened: Lizette started out being more shy and tentative, but when I got to the middle of the story, and because it was necessary for the story, she became a lot less tentative. When EE read the finished book, she wondered, basically, what happened there. When did Lizette get such an attitude?

Here's the thing: in my mind, she'd always had that attitude. That's why she said what she said that came into play in the previous books. By trying to change her at EE's suggestion, I was going against her character as I'd already set it up. More importantly, in the middle of KNAVE'S HONOR, the plot required her original character, not the "new" Lizette; she reverted to my original concept for the character and voila! Character conflict created -- and not the kind you want.

Given that Lizette's statements were already in evidence, as it were, and that certain elements of the plot had to remain as they were or I'd be writing a completely different book, "new" Lizette was more problematic to me than the concerns that Lizette might seem overly bold. It would be easier for me to explain in greater detail why she was bold and fairly independent than to keep her consistently "new."

I explained this to EE who, in her profound wisdom, agreed with me. This meant I had some changes to make at the beginning of the story, but I certainly had no regret or problem doing that.

Why didn't I stand up for my original version of Lizette when EE first suggested I change her? Well, that sort of heroine really can get off on the wrong foot with readers, especially in a historical, so I thought EE's concerns were warranted and so her suggestions worthy of heeding. It was only after the book was finished that it became apparent that EE's vision of the character and mine weren't meshing.

This is when it pays to be able to articulate why you're doing what you're doing with your story or characters. It's not enough to say I don't like a suggestion, or it's wrong. If I can say, clearly and with examples, why it won't work, my editor is much more likely to agree.

And thus all my years on the debating team pay off. :-)


Christine d'Abo said...

Margaret, this has been great to follow along with your edits. Thanks so much for sharing your process with us.

Margaret Moore said...

You're welcome. Now if only I didn't have to do the actual work... :-)

Kimber said...

I'm constantly having to figure out ways to make my rather strong business women softer.
I try not to show their business side immediately and when I do, I show it from the heroine's pov so while her actions and words are strong, her thoughts are not (everyone has self doubt).
Been studying your books to figure out how you do it (you've got some strong women in the mix).