The Character is Always Right

I spent almost a week struggling through two lousy pages of my current manuscript. Some days, words flood onto the page. Some days, writing is like hiking through knee-deep mud.

Yeah, it’s been a muddy week.

I finally figured out the problem. I was rushing one of my characters. I’m building up to the BIG CONFRONTATION scene and I was trying to convince the antagonist to show up. Seriously. A BIG CONFRONTATION scene isn’t worth much if the protagonist has no one to confront.

But it wasn’t working. The scene felt forced. I was stuck in mud.

And wouldn’t you know it? The character was right. It was too soon to bring the antagonist on stage.

Why did my character know that and I didn’t?

When I was in sales, the motto was “The customer is always right.” Sales people gnash their teeth at that one, by the way. Just between us, the customer is NOT always right. Sometimes customers are total idiots.

But I digress.

My new words to live by are “The character is always right.” You simply cannot force them into doing something they aren’t damned ready to do. And if you try, the reader will know it.

I backed off. Let the scene run another couple of pages. The victim spilled a few more delicious details to my protagonist. Emotions built to a higher pitch. And then, at the absolute perfect moment, my antagonist showed up, ready to create havoc.

After days of mud, the words are once again flowing like a mountain stream.

I was contemplating just sending the antagonist to prison. Now that he’s taunted me and proved me wrong, I may just have to kill him.

The character may always be right, but the writer gets the final revenge. (Cue evil laughter)


jrlindermuth said…
Good point, and one we too often forget.
Sara said…
You've always got that option of revenge with your characters, but where can a poor salesperson get her satisfaction?
I guess there's the old 'killing' them with kindness, but that just doesn't seem as cathartic.

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