Friday, December 01, 2006

Character is King -- And What That Means

More and more, as I read other writers--some published, some aspiring to be--and as I get more serious about my own writing, I come to realize that the activity in a story, the wars, car chases, fatal diseases and heroic last minute big-game victories, no matter how well presented, caries very little weight.

What matters is not what happens to a character. What matters is how that character responds to what happens to him.

I find, as I do my own writing, that I care most for the scenes that happen in the gaps, the scenes that allow a person to absorb and, with time for reflection, respond to the goings-on. At a certain point, the action stuff becomes almost a necessary evil, the noisy filler keeping readers listening until we reach the heart of a story.

It's a counterintuitive notion, really, that a character's somber reflections, a character's quiet redirection after explossive action in her life, is what matters. But when you really think about it, and you realize that you've seen every possible turn of physical events available to man--seen each of them done poorly and spectacularly--the only meaningful thing left to explore is how the character on stage right now will respond. It's the only real mystery, and the only rooting interest left to us.

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