We were leaving our critique group last week, comments and suggestions duly noted, when one of the members began asking me more about my main character’s motivation. Easy questions. I had written her back story before I started the book, so I knew what made her tick. I understood her quirks and insecurities better than Janelle did herself. In each chapter, I revealed more about the reporter, so that readers got to know her. I thought I had everything accounted for, but this question brought me up short.
I knew what she wanted to know about Paul and why she wanted to know it. I didn’t know how she had latched on to Paul’s story in the first place. What made her want to write about a year-old case? What brought it to the forefront of her consciousness when the case against him was tight and the media had moved on long ago?
I didn’t know.
All the next day, I mentally proposed and tossed out answers. I did what I always did when chewing on a plot turn or character’s development. I walked. I worked in the yard. I did something physical to free my mind, allowing it to work in the background to find a creative solution.
It worked. The answer came to me, and it was so obvious, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before.
I rewrote sections of my first chapter to include it. The answer not only made the chapter stronger, it explained why Janelle felt so passionately about writing the untold story that she was willing to have a heated exchange with her editor (an added section) about the journalistic value of pursuing it. Without the explanation, Janelle could have appeared to be just an idealistic, headstrong reporter. Now, she has a strong and valid argument that justifies her time and interest, even if it is writing on her own time and at her own expense.
Whether she gets the story she envisions is another issue.