Writing a Novel Can Be Like Herding Cats

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You have a great idea for a novel. You have a vision for the main character. You know their strengths and weaknesses. You can see the challenges and struggles they will overcome that will establish their hero/heroine credentials.

You start writing. Your main character may come on the scene like gang-busters, or they might emerge from the crowd to take center stage.

Regardless of how you introduce them, their most revealing traits; those strengths and weaknesses mentioned earlier, likes and dislikes, etc., will be established not only in the environment they inhabit, but more so in their interaction with other characters in your book.

Now comes the hard work of writing your novel; to not make your supporting cast mere cardboard cutouts in an attempt to make the lead stand out. The star of your book can’t have center stage all the time. Yet as they recede upstage during certain acts, you notice that another character is beginning to shine. Will the audience find them more appealing and able to carry the show than the one you cast as the headliner?

Writing a novel can be like herding cats. The supporting cats (cast) start to get independent and want to go in directions that will take attention away from the destination you set out for. They may start to behave in ways that draw too much attention to themselves. They might even attempt to establish their dominance on stage.

Now you start to see the importance of rehearsals and script revisions. You might need the helping hands of script consultants (family, friends or your online community) for advise.

If, indeed, the character you cast for the lead is the right cat, you may have to use a firm and decisive hand with the supporting cast and let them know that your novel is not about them. They may protest when you change the script or give them fewer lines. You might even have to fire them. That’s a dreadful thought since it may require a major rewrite. You can reason away the extra work by saying, ‘No one will ever know except me.’ If you do, don’t be surprised if your book only plays off-broadway and that it closes almost as quickly as it opens.

If you want your book to play on Broadway (New York Times best seller list), take the time to get it right. How will you know when it is?…when your cats knows that they are perfectly cast for the role they are playing, regardless of how significant of menial it is. They’ll say to you, “Thank you for scripting me as the house cat and not the feral feline; baker and not the banker.”

I’m still herding casts with ‘She Can See‘. I had to go back and pick up a few stragglers. An update is coming soon.

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