Wrestling An Alligator

Yes, it’s been a while since I blogged, and the fact that it took me six whole months to release Wine Into Water, the next book in the Flynn’s Crossing series, is almost embarrassing.  But you see, I have a great excuse.  I was busy wrestling an alligator.Alligator open mouth cropped 3


What, you say?  You didn’t know there were alligators in Northern California?  And wasn’t that kind of thing, well, dangerous?

Not that kind of alligator, my friends.  It was the kind disguised as a heroine in a romance novel, and the bloodshed hasn’t been pretty.  My alligator is named Marguerite.

In my own defense, let me say that it isn’t like I’ve been wrestling constantly for the past six months.  I re-released the first four books in my series under my own imprint.  There were two excellent conferences that took up a couple of weeks.  I implemented a new audience outreach and marketing plan, did I’m-not-sure-how-many book signings, and wrote a couple of dozen articles along with photographing a few shoots.  And I had six days off to house hunt in our future home of Portland, OR.

But those activities were minor in eating up time when compared to dealing with a character that wouldn’t tell me who she wanted to be.  You think writers have control of their characters?  Pah!  Sometimes they’re more stubborn that four year old kids or one year old puppies and more standoffish than a cat!

Yvonne Kohano, Flynns Crossing series, Wine into WaterFrom the beginning, I thought I knew who Marguerite wanted to be.  Deke, her hero, was very clear, and their conflict was crystal.  Their winery and ranch backstories flowed like, well, wine and water.  But she proved to be problematic.  Can I say this in public?  I didn’t like her.  It took me a long time to figure out why.

As she rolled out in Wine Into Water, Marguerite became this very black-and-white person, high on her opinions, and determined not to listen to any voice of reason.  Deke would negotiate, but not her.  Facts were provided, but did she want to listen to them?  Not her.

In short, Marguerite was the antithesis of me before her big ah-ha moment, and until I understood that part, I didn’t know why I didn’t like her.  In short, I was wrestling an alligator, and it wasn’t going well.  Bloodshed.  Deleted chapters.  Rewritten chapters.  Ripped apart scenes.  A worn out backspace key.  Guts everywhere.Alligator head 2

Don’t get me wrong – I like alligators!  It just took me a while to understand how to wrestle this one effectively, and now she exists peaceably in her story.  Ergo, six months.  But I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer and how my characters develop as a result, so the time is not wasted.

What do you do when a character – or a problem – turns into an alligator?  Any tips or tricks you’d like to share?  I’d love to hear your advice!


  • Melinda Curtis

    October 24, 2013

    I have no advice, other than to keep wrestling! Some characters fall right in line, others, dance to their own tune.

    • Yvonne Kohano

      October 25, 2013

      Thanks Melinda! If the want to dance, I just hope I’m the one selecting the tune! Yvonne

  • Patricia

    October 24, 2013

    My problem with my “not so likable heroine,” is that I like her. I understand her. But those who have read her story – don’t. That’s not good. More than 1 person have said they “hate” her.

    Now I have to find a way to re-write her so that others will like her and be sympathetic to her, but in such a way that I will sill like her, too. That’s hard.

    Writing is hard. I want the secret to make it easy.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Yvonne Kohano

      October 25, 2013

      If you find that secret, Patricia, please share it! At the beginning of Flashes of Fire, Book Two in the Flynn’s Crossing series, my hero Vince wasn’t a very sympathetic character either. My beta readers told me they didn’t like him. I liked him, but I knew what was coming! His evolution through the story ultimately made him a favorite of readers. Maybe part of the trick is making the character compelling enough before transformation so that readers stick with them until they undergo their maturation in the story.

      For me, I now realize I need to do my own temperature check with the characters to see how I feel about them. If I find them difficult, I need to keep that in mind as I write and consciously work against it. Being an ostrich doesn’t work! I’m 25,000 words into my new psycho-thriller series, and I find that I’m relating better to the villain right now than I am to the protagonist. I’ve stepped back to work on the hero’s backstory to make him more accessible to me. If I understand him more completely, I’ll be able to better communicate his journey of transformation through the story.

      Thanks for your feedback and support! Yvonne