I can’t do that.
It won’t work!
Have you ever said those words to yourself as you worked on your latest story? Heck, have you said that to yourself as you trod through life? 🙂
A few months ago when Mira’s Miracle first came out, Maren Smith and I chatted about our collaboration. In part two of our conversation, we discussed the far-reaching effects of a miscommunication:
I thought I had to use the existing male teacher in the schoolroom roleplay scene, and Maren didn’t think to tell me I could write a female teacher for the story. (In case you’re new to the world of Mira, I’ll give you a hint. Mira’s had a negative experience with a man, and she doesn’t respond well to male authority.)
Anastasia Vitsky: One particularly fruitful development resulted when I asked you about the schoolroom. When you told me Bill Emerson would teach the class, a part of me rebelled. A male teacher? For my Mira? No way! However, because this was your world rather than mine, I had to respect your established structure. Had it been my story, it would have been Mrs. Emerson in the classroom.
Maren Smith: You know, this was my fault. I failed to explain that there were three classrooms. Mr. Emerson only taught one. There was still the detention hall and a third unnamed class (probably gym) that you could have put a female teacher into and made your own. I didn’t even think of that until just now.
Anastasia Vitsky: But look what happened! If I had had my way, Mira would have gotten a female teacher and perhaps some nice, calm, boring interactions. Instead, I placed Mira in the classroom with your male teacher…and all kinds of dramatic tension ensued. Because Mira had already faced a dangerous situation with a male figure in Desire in Any Language, her meeting with Bill Emerson became explosive.
Maren Smith: Boy, was it ever. It was Brilliant!!! You didn’t just flesh out your character, you fleshed out mine! I loved that interaction!
Writing the scene where Mira encounters Bill Emerson, the teacher, turned out to be the pivotal point for the entire book. That miscommunication turned out to propel the story forward, highlight underlying themes, and bring the story to a cohesive whole.
All because Mira didn’t get what she wanted.
If you have a story that’s floundering or feels lackluster, try this: Put your main character in a situation she (or he) is sure to hate. Force her to meet someone she has been avoiding. Yank away her favorite person, possession, or pastime.
Remember when you created towns with your toys, only to destroy them with great glee?
Give it a try with your story.
Get really, really evil.
You can thank me later (but please don’t send your characters my way).