Obstreperous Stories

Rosie and Friend

If you write fiction, you know the stories I have in mind, the ones that start with a neat idea or image, or character, or bit of dialog. The scene materializes. The characters rush forward to deliver their clever lines. Everything hurtles forward really well—all the way to the Great Dismal Morass. And from there, I’ve lost all sight of the path that will take the characters and my gentle readers to The End. Nor can I see any other path that might wind its way to a different conclusion.

Sometimes I try dragging my characters, kicking and screaming, through scene after scene that turn out to be underwhelming at best. At worst, my beta readers will point out every last instance where those characters act inconsistently, or mysteriously. Worse yet are the times when the characters’ actions are at odds with the rules of magic or future technology that I established for them. Then there are the times when there are so many easier ways to solve their problems than the ones I force them to choose. In short, a promising new story had mutated into an obstreperous mess.

Naturally, this usually happens right before The Deadline. I’ve tried threatening to abandon the characters and to let them to sink into oblivion in the Great Dismal Morass, unless they come up with a neat solution. Ha! They know they can out-wait me. Because I created them, it’s always me who has to do their thinking for them, and to save them in a satisfying way right as we reach The Last Minute.

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