Thursday, September 27, 2007

Alignment of character and plot

Today I was thinking mostly about something Jane Smiley says--that when you look back on a plot you should see an extended argument for the character credibly taking an action at the end what never would have seemed possible at the beginning.

It's like a magic trick--the reader gets two contradictory notions of the character at the beginning and the end and the plot makes the connection between them believable.

I'm realizing more and more that my first draft ending--really most of my plot--doesn't have my character doing enough. Too much observation and not enough response to what he observes.

So my exercise today was really just basic brainstorming of possible plot developments, particularly at the end. What wild things could my character do that seem unlikely for him to do?

The idea is that if I came up with something--say for example he self destructs in some way--then I would need to make sure during the rewrite that the plot is sneaking in a persuasive case that he would do that, even though it might seem very out of character at the beginning.

And the real idea--back to thinking about character--was to see if I provoke some insight about what my character is not like at all and what he might secretly be like that I haven't put my finger on yet.

I think it was productive. I got a lot of loopy ideas for the plot but also got myself more comfortable with a couple developments that I had been stewing on and seemed too loopy. Now they just seem like they need the right persuasive case to support them. I'm excited about trying to tell a more energetic story in the rewrite. And it got me more in touch with the humanity of my character.

That last point reminds of the famous comment by Richard Ford about stories ending like supernovas. I'll try to write about that next time.

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