Let them work it out

I know the difference between real people and my characters. I really do. But sometimes I call on them to get me out of a jam. For instance, if I’m not sure where the plot is going (or should go) I put my characters together and see what happens. Given their personalities and the events that preceeded this juncture, what they do next will be a natural outgrowth of the story, rather than something imposed by me. The current novel I’m working on came to just such a point, and for a few days I thought and thought (and got nowhere) and finally threw my three main characters together inside a pickup and let them go. They’ll work it out.

In another novel, I wasn’t totally clear about what motivated my main character, so I wrote a scene where he made a list of what he wanted. Again, because it was coming from my character and the personality and voice already established, his desires were more organic and believable.

So I know my characters aren’t real, but if I’ve created a consistent, unique character, then at critical points they can help me out. This doesn’t mean that they are completely predictable. Like flesh and blood people, they sometimes behave in unexpected ways. You might think of this as the monkey-wrench approach, which has saved more than one of my stories from tedium.

Copyright 2021 by Philip Tate