Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

A lighthearted peek at
Character Driven Plotting

By Valerie Comer
©2003, Valerie Comer

 

Yes, hello?  You've come to audition for the lead in my novel? Please have a seat.  I'll be with you in a moment.

Excuse me, what was that about my wallpaper?  They're rejection slips, dear.  Aren't they pretty?  But now the wall is full, so it's time for something new.  This new novel is going to be a blockbuster!  It will head up the New York Times bestseller list for at least ten weeks.  With all due modesty, I wouldn't be surprised if it was as long as three years.  Yes, it's going to be that good.

Well, no.  Not really.  You misunderstand.  I'm the writer.  You're the character.  That means I get to tell you what to do.  That's how it works, because I'm The Boss.  Yes, capitalized.

Oh, dear me!  What kind of an upbringing did you have?  Did no one teach you to toe the line, to be respectful of your elders?   I was sure the screen call mentioned manners.  They're actually quite important to your duties.  That's right.  Duties.

You think I can't make you do what I want?  We'll see about that.  It's my fingers on the keyboard -- hey, move over! There's no need to use the real flesh, blood, and muscle on me.  Relax the grip.  There.  That's better.

Okay, fun and games are over.  Elysia -- that is your name, isn't it?  Elysia?  Funny, I thought Elysias were sweetly blissful souls.  You're not Elysia?  Excuse me?  I can't quite hear you.  Ah, Ekantha!  Doesn't that mean 'thorny'?  Never mind, I can see it suits you.  Ekantha who?  Ekantha Edrea Esmeralda -- where the heck did the Esmeralda come from?  Yes, that's true; green is an energetic color.  And Einarr is your last name?  Einarr?  Okay let me get this straight, Elysia.  You think your name is 'thorny prosperous & powerful green warrior leader'?  Whatever happened to 'sweetly blissful' Elysia?

Well, you've certainly made a statement with your name, even though it doesn't portray quite the image I was going for.  I was looking for something more delicate and feminine than Ekantha, but I suppose I could make it work.  What do you mean, you don't want to be feminine?  Look at yourself in a mirror!  You're a girl, aren't you?  Please tell me that hasn't changed.  Thank you.  You need to be feminine, though.  See, here in the outline?  You need to wear a frilly dress and go to afternoon tea at the castle.

Get your hands off my neck!  Now!  Let's discuss this in a reasonable manner.  On the other hand, why should I discuss it with you?  I'm the writer!  You will do as you're told!  And you will wear that pink fluffy gown and go to the castle!  And you will drink your tea daintily, remembering to lift that baby finger just so.  And you will...  all right, all right, you may wear a green dress.  But it's to be pastel, you understand?  With plenty of lace.  No, not leather.  And, no, you may not send your twin sister in your stead.

What?  You have a twin sister?  I don't see that in my notes anywhere!  Her name isn't Elysia, is it?  No, really, I didn't think I'd be that lucky.  One can always hope, though.  No, Ekantha.  If you have a twin sister, she must have died at birth.  She probably took one look at you...  Adopted out?  And she will show up at just the right moment, even though the reader has never heard of her before?  Just so you can do all the fun stuff and make her do the sissy stuff?  I don't think so, Ekantha.  That's not playing fair.  Whatever battles I lose today, I'm not losing that one.  We will be fair to our readers, girl.  If we have any left by the time you're done decimating my plot.

Why do I want you at the castle, drinking tea?  You need to impress the Prince!  He's looking for a wife, and if you behave yourself, you just may find yourself queen one day.  Wouldn't that be worth it all?  Did I hear you say "Not if it means I have to wear frilly dresses and drink tea?"  Ekantha!  I'm shocked at you!  What kind of man do you think this Prince is, anyway?

Yes, of course I know he's into riding and hunting.  I wrote his character sheet, didn't I?  That's what princes do!  What?  You think he wants a woman who rides motorcycles rather than horses?  No, don't be silly.  He has a stable full of horses.  And a woman that is a more accurate shot than he is?  What prince would want that and what makes you think you could do it?  I know it isn't in your character sheet, missy.  Enough back talk out of you.  I know how these stories are supposed to go. 

There's a formula for best-selling romances.  The reader knows it, even if you don't.  Boy meets girl.  Boy falls in love with girl.  Girl falls in love with boy.  They have a silly little misunderstanding.  They kiss and make up.  They live happily ever after, riding off into the sunset.  With appropriate music.  La-la-lalala...

That was a very rude noise, Ekantha.  I think I'm glad I couldn't see your hands.  You don't like the formula, I take it?  Listen, why don't you go hide in your character sheet, and I'll call on you next time I need a brassy...  You don't want to wait that long? You're right, I rarely need one of those, and never as a main character.  Well, I need a more malleable protagonist for this story.  I'm looking for blissfully sweet Elysia.  I want to get this story right.  It's very important.  I don't need any more rejection slips.  My wall is full, remember?

Ha. Ha.  Very funny.  Now hop in your file so I can hit delete.  No, really.  What in the world am I supposed to do with a character named Ms. Einarr, who is clad only in leather, and races motorcycles?  I'm not too keen on the dye job to your hair, either.  Green isn't in this week, and I don't think it suits the rest of your image.  Either image.  Yes, black is better.  Wait, no!  I wanted blond!  All the romance heroines are blond!  And petite, with voluptuous curves.  I must insist.  Sigh.  Ekantha, I have no need for a six-foot tall, thin as a whip, black haired racer.  Pardon me, Ms. Einarr.

Now the truth comes out.  You don't want to fall in love, either, I suspect?  And the castle is completely out?  Yes, you're right, a Harley would look rather out of place next to the war-horses in the stable.  No, I don't believe the chef at the castle serves double espressos shot with rum for breakfast.

Sure, I'll listen.  You've got about two minutes to talk before I delete your file.  You tell me the formula according to Ms. Einarr.  This ought to be good.

Oh, pick me up off the floor!  That is just too funny.  Hand me a tissue, would you?  Actually, just toss me the box.  Thank you.  Let's see. 

Okay, this is the debut of the great Canadian novel according to Ms. Einarr.  Correct me if I miss anything.  Yes, I'm sure you will.  Here we go: Ms. Einarr, the greatest motorcycle racer of all time, is on Saturn, where they have converted the entire ring to a giant racetrack.  Enter some evil poet... okay, okay, writer of sonnets, who by his very words causes the sun to flare, endangering the planet with radiation.  To save the human race, Ms. Einarr sacrifices all, and removes the poet, er, writer of sonnets, to a distant planet orbiting Beta Centauri, where together they solve the crime of defective motorcycle parts...  Wait a minute!  They got to this new planet by motorcycle?  Bit of a stretch, don't you think?  Well, no, you're right.  Taken in context, anything is possible.  Okay, crime solved... cowboys wearing green bandanas had been covering up the evidence amongst the thorn bushes... giant dwarves riding side-saddle on laser assisted unicorns are about to attack...  Giant dwarves, eh?  Well, that's definitely not a cliché.  Mighty Ms. Einarr, clad in leather armor and wielding gold coin leads her mighty army of little green frogs... gold coin?  Really.  Now that's an effective weapon.  Well, yes, I guess it is in that way.  Does that about cover the major points?

Really, Ekantha.  This is just too much.  I couldn't possibly write this story.  There's simply no rhyme or reason to it.  No genre.  No plot.  Stories need a plot, and I can see you wouldn't know one if it bit you on your delicate little nose.  Your nose!  What happened to your nose?  Never mind.  You've taken up enough of my time.  It's been a slice, but the party's over.

Delete.

Yes, yes?  Come in?  Why, hello there!  You've come to audition for my novel?  And your name is what, dear?  Elysia?  How sweet.  You have such blissful green eyes.  Just have a seat over there and I'll be with you in a moment.  Oh, one question, Elysia.  You look somewhat familiar; do you happen to have a twin sister?