Saturday, March 17, 2012

Writing Against The Tide

Have you ever gone swimming in the ocean and no matter how hard you paddle, trying to make progress in one direction, the current pushes you in another? Sometimes you need to wait for just that right moment to move forward and make progress in the direction you want to go because if you fight the current, you will exhaust yourself. Life is like that, and therefore it is essential to bring threads of that, always, to our writing.

One of the worst things we can do when writing our stories is have them be static and predictable, where things happen "to" the characters, rather than them being participants in their realities, and they do nothing to resist. Nothing to fight the tide, to stay on their chosen course, to wait for their moment to break free from the current and go forward. Think of your characters like waves in the ocean - powerful forces that are moving forward with intent. The current dictates the direction the waves will take, and the current can rapidly change. This is what adds the depth and meat to our stories - the obstacles, the conflicts, the forks in the road. And those lulls between the waves where the water is calm? The moments where our characters must summon their courage, find their inner strength, plot their course to overcome the current and get what they want. And the ultimate crashing of the waves on the shore? The moment where it all climaxes and comes together in a powerful way.

So essentially, our characters should always be swimming against the tide. That makes for great pacing, edge of your seat excitement and compelling drama. Because anything else is just treading water, really, and that just gets tiring. Nothing happens.

In life, circumstances constantly happen that are beyond our control. Friends move away. Jobs are lost. Parents die. Kids get married and start lives of their own. Relationships end. But rarely do these things happen to us in life that we do not display extreme emotion in the face of such change, and wage some level of fight to resist the change on whatever levels we can, whether it be something physical and tangible or simply denial of the truth of the new reality. Make sure your characters and stories hold this to be so as well, because that's what's real.

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