So, you’ve written your first draft, and it’s okay. It’s a compelling story, your plot is on point. You’ve paid attention to structure, character development, grammar, and spelling. But when you read it, you know there’s something off. The characters feel flat, the dialog is emotionally dull. Something is missing.
Ask a published writer about a lottery-ticket sort of dream, and some will mention a best-seller. Others, a movie contract. For some, writing the Great American Novel tops the list. I know more than one writer with that secret goal. One of them might be me.
We already know that writers are a brave lot. We allow complete strangers to read our creations and pass judgment on our suitability to be counted as part of this noble profession. We bare our souls to complete strangers while trying to protect the essence of our beings. Even soldiers wear bulletproof vests and welders protective-personal equipment.
We’re more than halfway through this year and man, what a ride. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, but let’s be honest—2020 just *bleeping* chucked a Payless off a cliff. While we’ve all been ducking boat shoes and dodging stilettos (some more successfully than others), it’s got me thinking about our characters and all the challenges we put them through.
We’re told to make things difficult for the protagonists, really twist in the screws. Did you make their lives hell? Well, make it worse. Do they have something they love? Take it away! All for the sake of growth.
I’ve read books, taken classes, and listened to speakers who all offer some version of, “You want to challenge your characters, break them down, and isolate them to find the heart and the strength that’s been resting untapped at their core.”
Time is relative. Suppose you bought a car in 1995. You can register it as a classic. Yet a 25-year-old person would hardly be considered an antique. The modern age of baseball started in 1900. The modern age of philosophy began with René Descartes in the seventeenth century.
So, it’s all up for debate, except for me. I’m old.
On Facebook Live recently, I watched my nephew graduate from high school by driving up to a makeshift podium. He got out of his car to receive a diploma from his principal. He returned to his car, and move forward, making room for the next vehicle. That was his COVID-19 induced beginning into the next phase of his life. It wasn’t the kind of commencement ceremony he had envisioned at the outset of his senior year, but it’s the one he got.
Day seventy-four, and there is still no hand sanitizer to be found. And don’t get me started on the yeast shortage. Okay, that sounded worse than it should have. Where are the jalapeños? Why isn’t there any Monterey Jack cheese? What is the attraction these gabachos have to Pepper Jack? Enter primal scream here.
When I was twelve years old, I wrote an adventure story about school kids trapped on an island, thwarting a plot to take over the world. My English teacher had me read the story to the class. I decided then that if I didn’t play centerfield for the New York Yankees, I’d become a professional writer instead.