I have blogged about my book club before, but for those not familiar, every two weeks I invite a select group of people over to my house. I cook them dinner and we read two chapters from my novel out loud. After each chapter, they discuss, ask questions and I take notes. The feedback is absolutely invaluable, and has made my novel so much richer then it would have been had I written it in a vacuum. However, I have noticed a shift in the atmosphere at book club lately.
Last night we read chapters 38-39 of 48. In other words, we are coming up on the end. As this novel takes place during the American Civil War, I think it’s safe to say without spoiling anything that not all of the characters survive to the end of the book. It would be a rather odd story if no one died over the course of a war. That being said, ten chapters ago I was getting comments like, “I really like this character.” Or, “Oh! I love when this character is in a chapter.” Now that we’re nine chapters from the end of the book, I’m getting comments like, “You realize that you have to bring this character back, right?” Or, “You better not kill this character. If you do, I’m done.”
Now I would expect these kind of reactions about my main characters. However, what is taking me aback, is that I’m getting these threats about my secondary characters. It cracks my shit up! And also makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside that people actually care about the secondary characters, but mostly it cracks me up. It is so cool to see which characters are making an impression, and which ones have become an integral part of the story being told. Not to mention, it provides one hell of a blaring neon sign that says, “Hey! Don’t forget to wrap up this storyline!”
Which is helpful, because in the first incarnation of this novel, my character Mary kind of faded into the background never to be seen again. I caught that misstep on my own, but I’ve been paranoid ever since that I’m going to forget about a character. Then after all of this work, all anybody will talk about is wondering what happened to so-and-so. After last night, that paranoia is gone. There is no way that Book Club is going to let me get away with that. Thank you friends, keep the threats coming.