A Guest Post from R. Renee Vickers
Hello everyone! I hope your day is going swimmingly (especially if you’re planning to be at a beach today). I’m back at Sarah’s fine establishment to talk about the Writing Out Child Abuse’s (WOCA) premier release, A Light In The Darkness. I’ve been here a couple of times (Thing One and Thing Two) in recent weeks to talk about this project and my story, Chasing Ashes, so I’d like to switch it up a little and talk about my thoughts on what I’ll be doing for my next submission to WOCA. I hope you enjoy!
Mary Jane Alistair slouched in the stiff metal chair outside of her favorite gastro pub watching the endless stream of Sunday shoppers pass her by. The elegantly sculpted wrought iron stabbed at her back. Poking her chocolate drizzled croissant with her red polished fingernail, she decided this wasn’t what she really wanted. An image of clear blue eyes framed in soft tan skin crinkled in a consuming laugh flashed in her mind. Oh his smile, perfect white teeth set between lush lips pulled into a carefree grin. She sighed, wishing he was sitting across from her.
As though the gods themselves decided to answer her prayers, she caught a glimpse of his sun kissed auburn hair bobbing through the crowd. She pulled herself up to sit up straight, placing her hands in her lap. It couldn’t possibly be… A sense of disbelief bubbled up inside of her as she watched her heart’s desire making his way directly to where she sat. That same glorious smile she remembered so fondly graced his face as he approached. His eyes even sparkled in the mottled light which filtered through the urban canopy of scraggly oaks.
“Mary, it’s been a while.” He pulled the heavy chair out just enough to sit, placed his elbows on the table, and gave her the full spectrum of his broad and heavenly smile.
But wait, that can’t possibly be all there is to the story, right?! Books would never sell if characters got their way so easily. Where’s the adversity? Where’s the build up? Where is the ever loving drama, people???
A story is a lot like life. It’s not about achieving a goal, but of what it took to get there. It’s about challenge, fortitude, and in the end, perseverance. If characters in stories got exactly what they desired as easily as the above scene showed, what would the draw be? Why would people choose to escape their own difficult lives to suckle on the teat of fiction?
Character building 101 dictates that all great characters have wants, desires, and needs and it’s up to the teller of the tale to furnish these base demands. It’s also the writer’s duty to pretty much torture the crap out of the characters before they get what they want. (which is my favorite part, to be completely honest) This is not a terribly difficult notion, as it simulates the real world to some extent. We mere mortals toil for the follies of the gods, if you believe in such things. We have wants, desires, and needs and work through our lives to get them. Sometimes they’re clear at the onset of our lives but often our needs will change as we grow older. It’s the same with our characters. So in the end, it’s really not about the destination but about the journey, in our stories as it is in real life.
That’s great, right? We’ve learned a lesson. Thanks for hanging, have a great rest of your day!
Wait! No, I was kidding, that’s not all. *laughs maniacally* (yes, “but wait, there’s more”)
What happens when you do eventually give your characters their heart’s desire?
What happens after your favorite MC (main character) gets exactly what their after? Are there consequences attached to obtaining their goals? Are they happy with what they eventually achieved or is it not exactly what they thought it would be? What if they’re not happy with it once they have it? And, and this is not a small and, have they screwed over the other characters to get it. How do others feel about them getting their wishes fulfilled?
My point with these questions is that the story doesn’t have to end with the happily ever after. If your characters are living, breathing entities in your mind, you can create an endless world for them that can go on for as long as it amuses you.
I got to thinking about this while contemplating writing a sequel to my story for A Light In The Darkness, Chasing Ashes. In that story, I gave one of my characters exactly what they wanted…or did I? In going over the possibilities of extending the story I got to thinking about what sort of emotional tolls there could be on the characters of Chasing Ashes. What if what they accomplished didn’t produce the expected results? What if it wasn’t exactly what they wanted? What if there were some unanticipated emotional consequences to their actions? And lastly, how could I explore these ideas while staying true to the voice of the original story?
In the world of fiction, nothing really has to end. Depending on the world you build and the characters you put into it, a story can go on even after death, if you so choose it to. But if you decide to extend the story past your characters initial achievements, you’ll need to explore if their desires and needs have changed or simply developed to reach a more specific mark.
Mary blinked her eyes several times, in utter shock that he was sitting there, just like that. A flurry of emotions swirled through her body. Her heart pounded feverishly in her chest, threatening to break free of its boney jail. When she woke up this morning she couldn’t have imagined he’d actually show up. But there he was!
She stood abruptly, sending her heavy chair crashing to the cement. Without noticing that she suddenly had drawn the attention of everyone within a fifty foot radius, she popped the cover off of her soft drink and flung the chilled, dark liquid at the devilishly handsome man sitting across from her. Soda splattered his face and his crisp white dress shirt.
“You bastard! You dog! I can’t believe you’re here!”
“What the hell?” He shouted, stood, and held his shirt away from his body in a feeble attempt to keep the cola from spilling on his pants.”
“I hope she was worth it!” Mary’s face contorted with the surge of emotions flowing through her as she screamed. All of the hurt and pain, and worse, the shame she felt in being seduced by someone of his ilk boiled over her.
His mouth hung agape. He had no retort.
Poor Mary. She got what she wanted, to see the once center of her heart one more time, but there was no way she could have anticipated what turmoil it would have stirred in her.
Thank you all for reading along! I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment. Thanks for having me to your site, Sarah!
Born in Florida but raised in various towns in New England, R. Renée Vickers now lives in the south east. And although work and family life leave her little free time, she spends every available moment indulging in her favorite passion, writing.