In Peril in Paradise, after the death of her daughter, my heroine, Clara, struggles to balance her quest for justice with her burning need for revenge. This was my focus for her character, but as Clara and I continued her journey, she began telling me how guilty she felt over Ally’s death. Clara showed me she couldn’t grieve her daughter, who would be alive if Clara hadn’t married Damian Garza.
Of course, Peril in Paradise went through many edits and rewrites, and each time, Clara revealed something new to me about her character. Even I didn’t know until the end of the book what Clara would choose … justice or revenge.
When I tell people my characters talk to me and guide their stories as much as my imagination does, I always get a “sure they do” look. If they’re interested, I continue and tell them about Alba, Sarita’s maid in Malice in Mazatlan. I intended for Alba to be a “pass through” character. She would serve as a prop to Sarita’s story and eventually “write off into the sunset.” But Alba had different plans and before I knew it, I’d written something totally unplanned. At first, I thought I was suffering from over-zealous storytelling, but when I reread the chapter, I loved Alba’s antics. I’m constantly bragging about Alba, telling my author friends, “You won’t believe what she did!”
I’m now in the throes of editing and rewriting Malice in Mazatlan, which allows me to get to know my characters even better. Recently, I worked on chapters for heroine, Katelyn, and villainess, Sarita. I love both women, their dreams, and their struggles. Katelyn is reeling from discovering her fiancé cheated on her a week before their wedding day and Sarita is frantically looking for a half million dollars in missing drug money. Of course, both women have come to the attention of Christopher who’s interested in getting to know Katelyn better after a chance encounter and has been tasked with arresting Sarita in hopes of capturing the head of a bigger drug cartel.
Imagine my surprise when my eyes flew open in the middle of the night and I whisper into the dark, “Crap, I love Sarita way more than I do Katelyn.”
Okay, no need to panic, I am a writer after all … I can fix this! If I like Sarita so much, then what did she have that Katelyn didn’t? I expanded their character biographies, concentrating on their similarities and differences. They both feel like their lives are spinning out of control. They both think their done with love, but a little steamy sex could be fun. They both find themselves in danger. I’ve known both characters for a long time, but maybe I needed to spend even more time with Katelyn and Sarita … and listen more closely as they told me their stories.
Sometimes I suffer from the delusion my first draft will be perfect and ready for publishing as soon as I type The End. But then again, if not for the rereading, editing, rewriting process, I might miss the marvel of … “She did what?”