Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Your Place or Mine

decisions-- the outcome of choices of narrative voice, characterization, setting and other dramatic considerations an author must make when composing a story; the courses of action a character in a story must take after being boxed in an emotional corner or when planning a strategy to achieve a goal.

The writer is faced with decisions related to where to put things in, when to leave them out, how to render them, and at what length. Characters are--or should be--driven to the wall in developing and implementing strategies that will lead to achieving some goal, even the survival-oriented goal of seeking a minimum-wage job as a stepping stone to something other. 

The operant word here is other; characters who are comfortable or fulfilled are not Petri dishes for the growth culture of story. Indeed, story only begins when such a character comes face to face with a situation that proves the opposite.

Writers are sometimes overwhelmed with decisions, causing their literary agents and/or publishers no end of concerns. It might be argued with some measure of success that writers who are comfortable with their characters are less likely to get maximum performance from them.  But writers who are uncomfortable with their characters and reach within themselves for extra measures of empathy and restraint are more apt to produce iconic characters (See) who remain in the reader's memory, long after the very details of their particular story are forgotten.

The decisions writer and character must make represent the common denominator between the two.

Hint: Both writer and characters have secrets. Since both are linked by decisions they must make, why not have them exchange secrets. Writers are often accused of betraying the secrets of family, friends, and professional associations. 

 Why not make an even four by having the writer accused of betraying the secrets of his or her characters? And just to play fair, think of ways characters can rat out their creators.

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