Monday, June 04, 2007

Giving your Characters Choices

I've recently discovered that one of my big problems with character narrative is that my characters are mostly reactionary - reacting to their environment or what is happening to or around them. Occasionally they will think of what they are doing, or where they intend to head... possibly a memory will crop up, but never have I provided my characters with a dilemma. Not once has one of my characters considered their options, fought between morals, or chosen the lesser of two evils. They've never contemplated taking control of a situation - often, instead, just diving right in as if there never was an alternative.

This, from Barker's Midnight Meat Train is an example of the kind of narrative I've never attempted before, to be right inside the character's head:
... There was laughter now.

Kaufman calculated the risks of his situation: the mathematics of panic. If he remained where he was, sooner or later the Butcher would glance down at him, and he'd be mincemeat. On the other hand, if he were to move from his hiding place he would risk being seen and pursued. Which was worse: stasis, and meeting his death trapped in a hole; or making a break for it and confronting his Maker in the middle of the car?

Kaufman surprised himself with his mettle...

You see also that Barker sticks to showing his character's nature whilst also giving us links to the character's world in carefully chosen prose: Kaufman is in accounts (hence use of mathematics and calculated), with reference to the Butcher, Kaufman will become "mincemeat".

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