What ho, writers! This is a Brand X edition. Sensible Shoes has family responsibilities tonight and asked me to fill in. I was happy to but I didn't have time to get my hair done, so please understand that I'm really much better looking and more eloquent than this usually.
Last week's discussion about raising the stakes to give your character enough reason to go back into the Swamp of the Least Grebe got me thinking about uncooperative characters in general. Avaunt! Over the twirly obstacle!
My First (and so far only) Novel is a legal thriller. Mr. Emmet, after an exhaustive review of the first 30 pages, announced that there needed to be sex.
"It's not that kind of book," I said.
"By 'that kind of book,' do you mean 'published'?" he asked.
So I told my protagonist that I needed for her to have a meaningless affair or two before she found the body. I explained that this would make her more readable and give her something to do while the plot came to a boil. She gazed at me incredulously with her haunting hazel eyes and pursed her luscious lips. "Are you nuts?" she asked. "I've got a caseload. I've got a child molestation trial starting next week! Not to mention that trivial little murder case with no body and a bunch of creepy atmospheric fixings that you assigned to me. I do not have time for any affairs, meaningless or otherwise. I refuse to participate."
Furthermore, she stonewalled my efforts to raise the stakes to get her to do it, pointing out that I'd already made her a hyper-driven trial warrior, and she didn't believe there was any such thing as a nymphomaniac anyway. I was stymied.
This led me to an Insight: The more developed and real and idiosyncratic your characters are, the more they really will drive the plot (Are we even allowed to say 'plot'? I have a feeling it's frowned on these days). Conversely, if you find that your characters are willing to do anything you ask, it may mean that they don't know themselves. It may even mean they don't have selves to know.
There's a writing exercise I like that calls for you to interview your character. It ends, of course, with the metaphysical "What do they want?" but before that there are really interesting questions, like their childhood memories and favorite books and food. I get a kick out of it.
Have you encountered defiant, self-willed characters in your imaginative worlds?
Tonight's challenge:Also, too: Who entered ABNA???? WiseFerret?
Choose a character you've written, your particular Callow Youth or Stout Companion, e.g., OR a well known character like Sherlock Holmes or Granny Weatherwax.
Come up with something you want the character to do that is unusual for that character -- the Stout Companion to quail, for example, or Holmes to write a romantic comedy, or Granny Weatherwax to fall passionately in love.
Write a conversation between you and the character in which they respond to this new assignment.
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