It’s a new year, but I want to pass along some ideas from the tail end of the old year. ECWG member Tom Zumwalt writes about writing on his blog, and his 13 December 2016 post contains some wonderful observations.
The image of plot as a river really resonates – it may be slow or fast, murky or clear, winding or direct, filled with obstacles, branches, pirates, or crocodiles. It carries the characters (and ideally the reader) to a place they weren’t before, and nothing is exactly the same when they arrive as it was when they departed. This can be a terrific tool for mapping out your plot or for assessing what you’ve already written: do we get lost in that tributary? Are there too many rapids, or not enough? Does the whole thing move along so slowly that everyone abandons ship and drowns out of boredom?
But the river – the plot – is simply a vehicle for the characters. Without them, we never embark on the journey. They are the only reason we care about the river. With the right characters, even the most placid river will not be boring, because they will do stupid or brave or terrifying or outrageous things on the way, and we will be riveted.
So heed Tom’s call: create characters we cannot look away from and send them down the river.