Fork In the Road

Having a bit of a difficult moment with my protagonist changing her mind on her approach to a dilemma, but I’ve come to realize that the approach is borne of something that makes her more human, and not just a puzzle piece for a story: she doesn’t want to injure or kill others. Now, however, I’m finding myself in a quandary. Do I force her back onto the old path, or do I continue to follow what she’s up to, even if it means a dichotomy between what she’s said she wants to do in previous scenes and what she’s doing now?

To elaborate, as I said yesterday, the character decided she wanted to go into a pawn shop. This put her in a position where she was separated from the group when a roving band of marauders attacked. It also afforded her the ability to rescue one of the members, who was a conscript, and borrow his uniform to infiltrate the group while hiding the conscript away in safety. This is the opportunity to become more compassionate that I was talking about yesterday. She tells this conscript of her elaborate plan to slip behind enemy lines and then get back to tell her friends of the marauder’s strengths and weaknesses: one, that the marauder uniforms are bulletproof, and two, that they’re weak to a direct attack from a blade of some sort. So far so good, right?

The problem however, was that it would really be the easiest for her to get the drop on the group and kill them all en masse – she has the ability to drop in behind these people without being detected. She could save everyone without having to put herself in danger. Why would she not have done that instead?

Because, I realized, she’s an animal lover, a vegetarian, and even though she harbors a misanthropist‘s point of view, the idea of killing someone, even in self-defense, is repugnant to her. The idea of killing like that wouldn’t even occur to her.

Here’s where we run into the problem. She is going to be forced to kill within the next few pages, and it is in character – she’s defending her lover. Now the door for the scenario that I described is wide open; she’s in shock after having to kill this guy (and it turns out she’s quite good at it, she studied anatomy in art school and knows where to strike), and it would be the perfect opportunity for her to solve the entire messy conflict. It would also show why she has such potential as “the Chosen One”.

There, just writing that out solved the problem. I was tempted to impose my own will upon things, but ultimately the answer is that no, she would not go on to attack like that. It’s not at the core of who she is, and though it makes things a lot more difficult to resolve, she would follow through with her original plan. Not to mention that going on a killing spree would invalidate what I just established with her becoming more nurturing. It would also lessen the impact of her having to take a life.

So, lesson to those who might still be with me here: trust your characters and listen to them.

The book that I mentioned yesterday? It’s Writing Fiction for All You’re Worth: Strategies and Techniques for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level by James Scott Bell. Pretty intriguing book so far. What I’ve found most interesting so far is his tips if one decides to pursue self-publishing. His list is strikingly similar to the goals that I listed on this page once upon a time. I’m not going to recreate it here because you owe it to yourself to read the book, but his tips all really boil down to professionalism. Making sure you (and your work) are ready for prime time. Maybe an even better distillation of his tips would be “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. That has been the source of my hesitancy with self-publishing this entire time: good fiction cannot be created in a vacuum, and there needs to be input from others before you know you’re ready.

On that note, Bell’s writing page is today’s link of the day. He has some great little freebies out there and it has some information on his other books that you might find interesting. I’ve already purchased The Art of War for Writers and it’s next on my list. The guy knows his stuff.

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