Character Driven Stories

It’s 2 A.M. Your two best characters are hunkered down in a three-foot trench across a hundred yards of barren ground torn and battered by artillery–across from a machine gun nest occupied by, you guessed it–the bad guys. One of your characters is a combo Stallone/Jack Reacher action maniac. Your other character is Woody Allen. What will Stallone/Reacher do? What will Woody Allen do? You’re a character driven writer, you know what they will do. Woody will try to talk his way and walk his way out. He’s an intellectual, a thinker, a pontificator. He will give a dozen reasons, logical and a little hysterical, for not going forward. Stallone/Reacher lives by a different code. Hit them before they hit you. Stallone/Reacher may take a minute to decide the most decisive way to blast the bad guys, but he’s definitely going to attack. He’s not going sit in a trench with Woody hoping the danger will go away. Character drives action.

Now you understand character. Once you know your characters deep down in their guts, they will take action. In fact, they will take over the action. All you have do is sit there in the fictive dreamy state and take notes on what your very real characters do (or won’t do) and try your level best to vividly portray what your living, breathing characters have decided on their own to do. Now you’re writing. Now you’re having some fun. And people pay you for this? Don’t have a fictive dream state? Let’s talk about that another time.