As some of you may know, I'm nearing the end of this current WiP. At least, I hope I'm nearing the end. I'm going to put as much work into it as necessary, but the overall plot, the stuff that needs to be revised, is pretty much hammered out. I just need to do a few minor tweaks and then go in for deep edits that make the writing worth reading.
But recently, I had to make a difficult choice. A strange one that I blame, in part, on my critique group. you see, when I plotted out this story, I had four characters total. Two protagonists and two supporting cast members. I figured that would flesh out the character cast in a way that made each person real and entertaining, giving them different ways to interact that would show the various sides of their personalities.
But one character would NOT jump off of the page. No matter how many times I tried to change him. He kept disappearing. Ducking into the background and hiding from the story. To the point where he didn't really matter. Even when I killed him in an epic battle scene.
At first, I tried to rewrite him. Flesh out his personality a bit, make him a stronger character and give him a bit of a backbone. But instead of making it better, it just kinda turned him into this guy who hung around for several scenes, trying to get involved before he dies. And even though I almost cried when I wrote his death scene, the second time I got to it, I thought, "Finally! He's gone and I can focus on the other characters some more."
So guess what I'm doing right now! That's right, I'm writing the character OUT of the book. He still shows up for a few chapters, but his purpose is served in those chapters. Beyond those few pages, he's a nuisance.
So why didn't I work harder to make him a bigger part of the story? Mostly because he's not needed. This story has a lot in it already, at least as a "debut" novel (which is how I'll have to pitch it) for YA readers. I don't want it bogged down with a bunch of character development that will do NOTHING to advance the plot. And the other character that I bring into the story to work with the protagonists needs to have her own character advancement. The erased character helps with her development a bit, but not in any way that can't be rewritten with other characters who show up along the way.
Some people call this "killing your darlings." An idea that I'm embracing. I heard someone say once that first ideas are great, but they're almost always wrong. Or at least not as great as the ideas that come after. So take those first ideas, embrace them, and then be prepared to THROW THEM AWAY to bring in new, better ideas that wouldn't have come to mind without those first ideas.
That's a great deal of this book. My first line even got rewritten several times because the first attempt didn't work for me. It inspired an entire novel, but when it came time to revise, the entire idea behind the story had changed, evolved, and transcended that first line.
Be prepared to throw out ideas, just make sure the baby doesn't go with the bathwater.