Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Choice Is Ours (November Theme from Jody Feldman)



If you think beyond the turkey and the football, November is often about choice, though choice goes for turkey and football, too. Choose the drumstick or wing. Root for Dallas or Detroit, both or neither. Vote Republican, Democrat, or Independent. Shiver in the light jacket or be weighed down by the heavy coat.

Some such choices have few lingering effects. Most, in fact, are forgotten by week’s end. But as authors, when we make even the most insignificant choices for our characters (sweet potatoes or mashed, maybe), it can change their literary lives. It can change the whole story.

Case in point ...
When my next book, The Gollywhopper Games 2 opens, Cameron is wedged between his two brothers in the back seat of the family car. My decision to put him there, to begin the book at that moment with that detail was, in reality, a whim. It was time to get this book started, and that seemed as good a starting point as any. With that one choice, though, I suddenly understood Cameron, his personality and the pathway he would take through his journey. I could have stopped after chapter one. I could have started again with a different detail and a different character, but I didn’t. That singular choice had major implications for the rest of the story, much more than his later decision to choose a hotdog with mustard. The fact is, not all literary decisions are equal.

I wish I could say I made many character decisions last November. That would make this entry very circular and satisfying, wouldn’t it? But I don’t usually get to make character choices on my schedule. After a while, the characters seem to make choices for me. For myself, however, I still can choose a thick piece of white meat, and I’ll take both sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes, please. Oh, and pass the pumpkin pie.

4 comments:

  1. There have been times during revision that I've changed what had originally seemed like unimportant details to something that supports the plot by adding a new dimension to the scene. Great article!

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    1. I LOVE when that happens. And it just happened again this morning. Thanks, Pam!

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  2. I agree, Pam! Sometimes, what appears to be an insignificant detail actually drives the whole book.

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    1. I'm just hoping I never get to the point where I try too hard to pre-plan those details. It's probably best when that happens subconsciously. Don't you think?

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