Friday, March 7, 2008

It lacked a certain themey-ness

Last night while sharing chai with some writerly-type-friends, I went on and on about the short story I'm working on. They liked the rough outline for the story, but I lost them as I described the main characters. I'll admit it, these characters are an annoying and pathetic lot and only one or two of them grow and change. Worst of all, I didn't have a good reason for what I was doing. I could articulate what happened, what the characters did, but I still wasn't clued into their motivations. The conversation moved on, thank goodness, and though I pretended to be interested in what was said next, I was actually trying to figure out the what was wrong with my story and how I presented it.

Here's what I came up with -- it wasn't just a character problem, it was a theme problem. I wasn't paying enough attention to the story. If I had, I would have been able to articulate both character motivation and story theme. They were right there. The theme was expressed through the actions and development of the characters and vice versa. Doh!

My story is about how sense of self and self-worth should come from within. Each of my main characters feels good about herself because she feels superior to the other. They stay together because neither can imagine herself without the other to cast back her negative reflection. One of the characters will grow and change, the other won't.

I don't know, does that make them sound more interesting?


HRJ said...

Internal growth of a character is interesting. If characters 'had it together,' I'd find them rather boring and could careless what happened to them.
Now, the question is how to write a internally conflicted character? In order to pull this off you must either: Write the story from their point of view or
figure out a way to externalize their internal thoughts.

I was trying to figure out examples of this in spec fiction, nothing is coming to mind at this moment.
However, the story I keep on thinking of is, "Everyone Goes to Ricks." Other wise known in its film adaptation: Casablanca.
Rick is a well written character who is internally conflicted and grows within the arc of the story.

Another important question to ask yourself when your writing is, "what is the arc of the story?" This will help move the plot and character development forward.

Laura Bradley Rede said...

I like the idea of two characters with the same psychological malady, one of whom overcomes it and the other of whom doesn't. Seems like this would make for some nice tension, allowing one to be a foil for the other in the end.
I think you have found a certain themey-ness. Can't wait to read it!

HRJ said...

I am glad you are going to give birth to the story.