Friday, January 23, 2009

A Chat With A Character (Part 3 of 3)

“Here’s something you might be able to answer,” I said to Gene as we continued our conversation in Ellen’s café. “I have this character—“

“It isn’t me is it?” He asked.

“No,” I said. “It’s a woman, but you wouldn’t know her. You know her pastor.”

“So what about this character?” Gene moved his coffee cup to the edge of the table to make it easier for the woman with the coffee pot to fill it.

“She’s doing something she shouldn’t. She as this girl she’s taking care of. The girl is the daughter of a friend who died. This character has run into some hard times and she wants to give the girl a better life, so she goes to these rich people and claims the girl is a member of their family.”

“It sounds to me like you’ve got it all figured out.” Gene sipped his coffee.

“That isn’t the problem,” I said. “This woman has mixed emotions about what she’s doing.”

“Don’t we all? He asked. “Just as soon as I get back to my desk, I’m going to draft my resignation. It isn’t something I want to do, but I know it’s the right thing to do.”

“She has the opposite problem. She knows she needs to be honest, but she goes right on lying.”

“Why would she do that?”

“For her protection,” I said. “I’m not sure my readers will get it if a character regrets what she’s doing in one scene and then doesn’t change anything about what she’s doing.”

“That is the way people do things,” Gene said. “Don’t people decide to lose weight and then they go overeat without even thinking about it?”

“Yes, but that’s like a habit.” I sloshed my coffee around in my cup. “Fictional characters tend to be driven more by motive than what normal people are. The rest of us can get up in the morning and go through a whole day without ever thinking about why we’re doing the things we’re doing.”

“Have you thought that you just aren’t explaining her motive well enough?” He straightened the silverware next to his plate. “I know you have, or I wouldn’t have thought of that.”

“Yes, but that means even more revisions to things I thought I was finished with.”

“Speaking from personal experience,” he said, “I know that character will want you to get everything perfect before you let your readers see it.”

“Perfection isn’t possible,” I said, “But I’ll do my best.”