Well, tomorrow I’m going to have a guest post from RJ Blain, who is another relatively insane author I’ve been stalking on Google+ for a while now.  (I don’t think it’s really stalking when she’s in another country, but … eh … we’ll let her decide where the creepy boundary is.)

Anyway, you’ll love her.  She’s crazy and likes chocolate.

I thought about putting the post up tonight but had one of those “writer” moments today that I just had to get out.  Honestly, it’s amazing I can remember this eureka moment since a bird quite literally attacked me thirty seconds after I had it.

I’m not kidding.  This little black bird flew right into my back.  I thought maybe it was an accident but it came back and proceeded to dive bomb me again.  I nearly swung my sandwich bag at it, but thought I might get bird-crazy on my Italian Subway sandwich somehow and decided to just run instead.

Yeah.  I ran from a bird.  I’m not proud.

In my defense, it had beady black eyes and reminded me of those nasty crow things from Snow White and the Huntsman.

Where was I? … Oh, yeah … the Eureka moment.

One of the elements that is severely lacking in my fiction (or at least my early fiction, I have been working on this) is that of choice.  What I mean by that are major choices, choices that the character knows won’t end well no matter which direction they pursue.

ALERT:  The following examples are spoilerific!  DO NOT READ if you hate spoilers. 

Example #1:  Doctor Who The End of Time.  That’s like the last episode David Tennant was in and he gets to a point where he has to choose between shooting the Master, or Rassilon (Timothy Dalton’s character).

For a dude who has spent the last several years adamant about not killing anyone, this is seriously a bad decision for him.  We get to see him flipping between aiming the gun at Dalton or the Master and then Dalton again and then the Master.  (And in the end he chooses neither, but … eh … it was the fact that he was put in the position to have to make such a choice that added tension to that climax.)

Example #2: Supernatural What is and What Should Never Be.  Poor Dean Winchester finds himself having to make a very serious decision in the end of this episode.  He was attacked by a djinn and is in this dream world where his mother is alive and his family is mostly intact while the djinn slowly consumes his blood.

For a guy who has a history of putting his family (and innocent lives) in front of himself, he is suddenly confronted with a choice; stay and live in the “world” that has been created for him, or gut himself in the dream in order to wake up.

Of course, there’s no guaranteeing that he’s right and that he’s in a dream at all, so the decision also has the fear of mortality laced into it.

Sweet, holy tension, batman!

Dean delivers this wonderful line just before he goes to shove a knife into his gut, too —

“No, I’m sure.  I’m like … ninety percent sure.  I’m sure enough.”


You see what I’m saying here, right?

It’s all about choice.  In fact, we can sum plot up as being Character A must choose Path A, B, or C.

All right, so that’s an oversimplified look on plot, but it really does work.  Characters are defined by the choices they make — at least the good one’s are.  So my eureka moment today was when I realized that I hadn’t really given my characters tough enough choices to make.

Rock, meet hard place.

And then the bird attacked me.

There might have been more to that eureka moment but I was busy running.

You can’t get avian crazies when a bird dive bombs you, right?  It’s not like a freaky bird plague I should be worried about?


2 thoughts on “Choices

  1. In a grave somewhere, Alfred Hitchcock is quietly chuckling.

    I love choices for characters, especially when there is no good choice, only a least bad choice.

    The bravest writers will even have their character make the worst choice, whether it’s because it’s right for the character (eg. Ned Stark), or because it’s a selfish choice that comes back to bite them (eg. Dexter saving Trinity from suicide).

    1. Yeah … I was looking for a good telephone booth to hide in.

      Stupid bird.

      No good choice situations are just full of lovely tension. One day I might even write something that captures it. Hopefully one day soon.

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