Putting Characters Through S%^t
I can’t remember where I heard it (might’ve been from my Creative Writing teacher, who’s a published literary novelist with tenure), but someone once told me that all fiction starts with a single character getting into a whole heap of trouble and then reacting to that trouble or trying to find some way to extricate themselves from it. In many cases, that’s all you need for a compelling plot. And so it is the case for my latest short story, Fugue, which is about a girl waking up from a fugue state to realize she’s not in Kansas anymore and she’s in big trouble.
Well actually she’s from a small town in rural Virginia somewhere between Richmond and Charlottesville, but you get what I’m going for here.
The point is, I’m trying to put my main character through so much grief and fear without being sadistic about it and without causing suspension of belief. The start of her trouble is the fact that she woke from the fugue state instead of the fugue itself. When one wakes from a fugue state, they’re confused, they’re scared, and they have no idea that they’ve just spent a great deal of time (in this case, several months) living as someone else, and have no memory of the incident. With that in mind, I’m delaying resolving the character’s problems and allowing her to figure out what happened to her while I try to make an interesting story based on the things that are happening to her immediately following her awakening.
Or to be simpler, I’m trying to see how much s%^t I can put the poor girl through before I have to resolve the plot and get to where this whole thing will eventually conclude. Which is a tough balance, seeing as I’m trying not to make things too easy for this character. On the other hand, I want to make sure readers don’t get annoyed by it all and want to stop reading because there’s no resolution.
So what’s the best way to go about doing this balancing act? You tell me. In any case, this is the first draft, so there will be room for mistakes. However I must try to get this done by the end of the week, because I’ll be starting edits on Snake when March begins, and I don’t want to delay too much.
Which means I should probably stop blogging and get back to getting this girl to her next point of conflict. Wish me luck.