My A-Z Blogging theme is to cover 26 touch-me-not categories of fiction writing. These are frequently the trouble spots which can be useful components of the story if handled properly, but when rushed through, can cause all kinds of trouble. While the genre is fantasy, the tips can apply to anything, from romance to literary fiction.
While exploring the ruins of an old castle, Mordekai and his sister Monique accidentally destroy an old tower only to find themselves in a different place, or time, entirely. Then a giant goat crashes through the wall and carries Mordekai off, leaving Monique with the unpredictable Princess Mural. After a variety of adventures, they’re reunited in the courtyard of the villains castle. They take refuge in a stable along one wall and hold off the goat forces until her uncle delivers an ultimatum: surrender the throne of Stelvia or be crushed beneath the roof of the stable. He then leaves them under the guard of the giant goat and the goat soldiers while they make their choice.
As soon as Mural’s uncle was out of sight and hearing range, Monique turned to her brother. She could hardly believe that he was back, safe and sound, after all the adventure they’d been through. “You okay?”
“How okay can I be when we’re going to get killed?”
She rolled her eyes and turned to Mural. “Where was he?”
She just looked at her blankly, so Monique elaborated. “Mordekai. Where was he when you brought him back?”
“I’m right here. You could ask me,” Mordekai said, but she ignored him. After all he’d been through, she wasn’t sure she could trust his take on things, and if Mural had brought him back, surely she had to know where he’d gone.
“Another realm. Or time. It depends on the spell my uncle put on it.”
“Then take us there.”
“No,” Mordekai said. “We’re not going back.”
“Going…it was our world? Our time?” She could feel a smile breaking across her features. “That’s perfect! You and I can go back…”
“I’m staying, ‘Nique.”
“To get killed? I can’t let that happen.”
“There has to be another way.”
Mural shook her head. “Your sister is right, Sir Mordekai. I will not pay fealty so…the situation is most desperate. If you wish to return to your realm, ’tis your right and I would not say nay.”
The trick with Veracity, or being true to your characters, is they sometimes do things that are less than heroic. Frodo decides at the last minute he wants to keep the ring and puts it on, repeating Isildur’s mistake in Mount Doom. The Beast is too grumpy to be kind and gentlemanly to Belle, early on, leading to all sorts of trouble. Elizabeth can’t see past her own prejudice to realize that she’s falling victim to the lies and deceptions of a con artist. And on and on it goes. Fiction is full of mistakes and poor choices that characters make because they don’t know everything and they aren’t mature enough, in that moment, to make the wise, selfless choice.
And your story should have the same problem. No matter how nice your characters are, they will probably say things they’d latter regret: make suggestions that wouldn’t be best, or nice, or even good for the story, and it’s your job, as the author, to find ways around the problem. If Frodo keeps the ring, how can you stop the story from repeating itself and the villains winning? If the Beast is so grumpy Belle can’t love him, how can you keep Belle around long enough to see past his behavior? If Elizabeth will turn Darcy down, the first time he proposes, how can you orchestrate things to where she’ll reconsider?
But these have to be outside elements that change before the characters have a change of heart. Frodo has to have a fight with Gollum. The Beast has to save Belle’s life. Elizabeth has to see Darcy in a new way, in light of his letter and his kinder behavior at his home and to his tenants. These outside influences have to work on the characters before there is a change of heart. They don’t just “magically” become the kind of people you (and the story) want them to be.
Similarly, Monique isn’t going to all of a sudden be committed to Mural’s problems and Mural’s world. She’s going to want to get out, any way she can, and she’s going to do her best to not consult Mordekai in the process, as she knows what he’s going to say. It’s not nice, and it may not be helpful–they’re leaving in the middle of the climax would hardly be helpful–but it’s consistent with her character, so it has to be there.
Until the next letter,
Copyright 2017 Andrea Lundgren
Photo courtesy of gratisography