Hello, writers. So here I am merrily drafting away, and I've come, not for the first time in my career as a small-time entertainer, to a battle scene. I get kind of queasy writing battle scenes. After all, I'm pretty much a lifelong pacifist. I feel a bit like a vegetarian cooking up a Thanksgiving turkey.
So instead of girding for battle, why doesn't my protagonist leap up and say “Wait. We can work this out peacefully. And if we can't, to hell with it, we'll cede whatever we need to cede in order to avoid war”?
Because he's not me. Which is just as well. Readers don't want to read about me. I try to avoid adventures that involve jumping freight trains or falling off cliffs. I'm dull.
Of course, I'm not going to write anything that sends a message I don't agree with-- a book that says “war is the answer” for example. But if I make all my characters do what I would do, well, the story will be very boring and there will be very little conflict. .
Without conflict, you don't have tension and without tension, you don't have a story. Most of us try to avoid conflict and tension in real life, of course. But as we've discussed before, you don't want to avoid it in your story. You don't want to make all your characters reasonable people who are eager to cooperate with each other in order to work everything out. You want to make your characters people who will inevitably grate on each other sometimes, and work at cross-purposes, and sometimes make the worst possible choice. Not because they're stupid, but because they think it's a good choice.
So try this out for tonight's challenge.
In a scene of under 100 words, show a character choosing to do something that you're pretty sure you would never, ever do. Make us understand why s/he does it.
If that's not enough to go on, start with this sentence:
It was hardly an unusual squid.
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