I’m at a point with my current work in progress where I need to make decisions about my characters. I have character A and character B. I know they are going to get together to work on a problem. They know each other from the past. So I need to figure out HOW they know each other. It’s not (usually) as easy as saying, “Oh, he’s her brother’s best friend…” or something like that. As with anything writing related, you need to put some thought into the decision so that it has the greatest possible impact on the reader, and so that it creates the greatest amount of conflict in your story. Because as we all know, ANYTHING that believably raises the stakes in your story is a very good thing, the higher the stakes the better.
Usually, the first idea that pops into your head is a good STARTING point. The initial idea is something that you work with in order to find your truly unique take on things. Usually the first thing that pops to mind is the first thing that popped into someone else’s mind too; it’s the easy idea. And as writers, we know, it’s never about the easy. I can’t remember who had originally given the advice about taking your first idea, throwing it away, and then taking your second idea, throw it away too. By the third idea, maybe you’re getting somewhere. It doesn’t just work with story ideas, it works with characters as well. When I read a story, I don’t want predictable characters I’ve seen a million times. I want them to surprise me. And I know that the people who will read my stories will want the same thing.
Another thing to remember is that just as the setting and conflict in your story shape your characters, so too do the characters shape the conflict and setting of your story. Characters will handle crises in different ways. Characters will handle anything that happens to them in their own particular way, and that is what will make your story unique. When you have a character pop into your mind, there might be certain things about her that would preclude her from existing in a certain time period or a certain country. A person like that would not believably live there, and so you would have to find a setting that WOULD work with that character. Certain events that would be a crisis for one person would not be a big deal for another. The combination of your characters, your setting, and the conflict is what will make your story unique; unlike any other. Yes, there is no such thing as a new idea, but there are new ways of using old ideas. New combinations, new approaches. You want to make sure you do all the work necessary to know your characters, because the more you know them, the more options you will have. You’ll know how to approach the story so that it works the best way with your character, and your character will… well, stay in character.
ROW 80–I haven’t quite finished the outline yet, so I will be doing that today. Hopefully tomorrow I will be done with that and be able to move on to the actual writing phase of this project.
Today’s rose: Jacob’s Robe.