The mid-draft dilemma

I was most of the way through the first draft of my next novel when I realized I had three of the characters all wrong. Their personality traits. Their motivations. How they interacted with each other. Totally wrong. As though they’d waited until just now to introduce themselves to me properly. How very rude.

Changing their characters doesn’t impact the ending of the novel — in fact, it might make the ending more emotionally resonant. But it does impact large parts of the plot, and it impacts the emotions of the main character, since these people are her relatives. Again, so rude. It’s like they’re trying for an awkward Thanksgiving or something.

So, having decided to make the changes, did I make them immediately, tearing into an unfinished draft, or did I plow ahead anyway and make the changes in the first round of revisions?

There’s a case to be made either way. If you know the road you’re on is the wrong one, it only seems logical to swing the car around and make your GPS recalculate the route. (Well, that is how I drive in real life. I had no idea where I was going, ever, until the GPS was invented. Maybe you don’t get lost on a regular basis, in which case, kudos.) But if you know the road is still going to lead to your destination, even in a roundabout fashion? Maybe the point is just to get there, and worry about the details (gas! toll money! bugs on windshield!) later.

I finished the draft. I decided what I really needed was the satisfaction of finishing it first, and having gotten those final scenes out of my head, I could move on to fixing the rest of it.

So now I am on to revisions. I’m hoping I can get this odd family straightened out a bit, and that there will be no more unexpected character changes until, oh, the next draft.