Tuesday, February 23, 2010

But They Didn't Say Cheese

Larry and Mrs. Larry (our tortoises) welcomed some visitors the other day. My nephew (2 1/2 years old) got a real kick out of them. He stood by their tank, toy camera in hand, snapping away as if he was on a photo shoot. We asked if he liked taking their pictures and he said, "Yes, but they didn't say cheese."

Of course, that cracked us all up, but then I started thinking (something I either do too much or not enough, depending on who you talk to.) What happens when your characters don't do what you want them to do, when they don't want to "say cheese?" What if they want to run away screaming from the monster instead of fighting it? What if they don't want to fall for the geek but would rather be treated like dirt by the jock? Bargaining might work: you can run away this time but you'll have to kill the creature later, you can kiss the football hero but you're going to the prom with the geek. Do you force them to fit the story or do you let the story fall around your characters?

I don't have any actual answers, but one thing I've learned is I need to listen to my characters. Sometimes there's a real reason they don't want to do something. Sometimes their way is better for the story. And sometimes they're going to have to just suck it up; their picture is going to get taken even of they don't want to smile, even if they don't want to "say cheese." I'm the writer here. I'm in charge...

Okay, characters, you better stop laughing now or I'll be forced to delete you...

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