In my post to live without cliché I wrote: ” My novel has a lot of internal tension, but there needs to be some external tension – a driving force for this internal struggle and development.”
I’m at a point where I am more interested in learning about writing than actually writing. For me right now it is about development rather than creation. Odd, I never to separate them in such a way, after all practice makes perfect, but this is what’s happening so I’m going along with it. I’m reading a few books on the craft and one that I keep returning to is A Writer’s Guide to Fiction, by Elizabeth Lyon.
A few days ago I came across this passage in her book: Sequels show the way that characters process their emotion and seek solutions for problems raised at the end of a scene. Sequels show how a character sorts out strategies and chooses a next step…..The decision made in the sequel will also propel the inner story, which leads to a character fulfilling his or her story yearning. Remember, the protagonist’s inner story propels the outer story and not vice versa.
I added the italics because I thought this was the complete opposite of what I wrote. I’ve been thinking about this since reading it, wondering if I have it backwards.
I looked at life, even though to me fiction is not really comparable to life, and thought ok, each action of ours leads to the next. But, are there external driving forces that can alter that path? Yes, personally I think so. Our DNA tells us how long we potentially can live yet, there are many external forces that affect this. Our lifestyle habits and choices, how many contaminants and toxins we’ve been exposed to, our response to stresses, accidents, and so on.
But, how does this apply to fiction?
I can’t have a meteor fall out of the blue just to enhance drama. I can’t have a serial killer appear from nowhere to enhance tension. It wouldn’t be credible, and I think many people would close the book at that point. But, I can have someone suffer food poisoning after they choose to buy a particular meat.
In the end, I realize these two statements are not the opposite, they are co-dependent. The decisions our characters make will lead to the next external action, which will in turn cause them to make another decision, etc, until we’ve reached a point past the climax and our characters have had their life enhancing moment, and we are satisfied with character growth.
I would love to know what you think on the matter.