Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Look Out! Rock!
There's all this talk about plot. And it's true, without plot, there's nothing to move the story along. Or to move your characters along.
Here's the deal. Think of your characters sailing along (or floating, speedboating, or whatever) in a river. It can be a fast-running, blue-water river, or a slow-pokey one with murky waters. Now, toss in some rocks in the water, a fork in the river, an unexplored branch. That's your plot. Your characters, if we care about them at all, are forced to make decisions about how to avoid the rocks, whether or not to explore other sections of the river. Perhaps there are river pirates (hey, it happens...remember, it's your story), or a Nessie, or a river-quake (just made that one up). Now your playboy millionaire yachter turns coward (cliche), or your 14-year-old gender-fluid Mensa member goes all Ripley from the Alien films. Remember. Your story.
What got me on this plane of thought, besides not enough sleep last night, and the need to write something fresh before returning to editing, was I just finished reading "The Once and Future King". And I realized, as I've realized with other well-written stories, that it doesn't matter who slew who or what, or who slept with who or what. Sure, there was betrayal, justice, injustice, illegitimacy out the wazoo, heroism also out the wazoo, magic, and swordplay. But all that would've been for nought without being vested in the characters. My characters. My family. Gotta hand it to Mr. White. In 600 pages (and I typically don't have the stamina to make it through a 600-page book), I would have fought for Arthur. King Arthur. The Wart. My Arthur. When I reached the end, I marveled at my feelings of loss, after seeing him start off all those pages prior as 14-year-old Wart, eventually becoming old, blue-veined Arthur, a king who did his best, soon to die.
And Lancelot. And Guenever (Mr. White's spelling). And Mordred. And Merlyn. And Gawaine.
Yes, all of them. I close my eyes (hard to type that way) and I see them before me, because good ol' T. H. White breathed life into them and made them real. Hell, he made them family.
So, there you have it. My soapbox stance of the day. Go, now, and create characters for us to love, or hate, or love/hate, and put them in really sticky situations. It's up to them how to solve their problems. Okay, well, it's really up to you, but you know what I mean.
Keep writing, friends.