Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Everyone has an agenda

So I'm writing this story about a kid named Percy Freebottom, and I get 10k wds into it, wad up the story, chunk it, re-write from the beginning, I'm back to 10k wds, wad it up, chunk it, re-write from the beginning, and so on. I've done this several times, now, and I'm finally up to about 20k wds.

And I'm ready to wad it up and chunk it.

I keep trying to figure out what's ~wrong~ with the story. Something's wrong, I can feel something's wrong, but I don't know ~what~ is wrong.

The name's a good name -- I love Percy Freebottom.

The storyline's great. I dig the plot, rough though it is.

The setting's right -- rural East Texas. The time is right -- 1980. The age is right -- 10yo, pre-pubescent.

I have the dogs, the woods, a cast of characters, all lined up in their dressing rooms, waiting on me to hand them their lines and tell them where to stand and how to act and what to wear and how to look and what to think. Everyone already knows who lives, who dies, and who wishes they had one or the other.

It's all there.

But something's missing, and I don't have a fucking clue what it is. At least, until last night.

I watched a movie, and it clicked -- ~EVERYONE~ has an agenda. I mean, everyone. Every character, every clerk, every police officer, every taxi driver and teacher and well digger and horse wrangler. The all have an agenda.

And that's what I forgot. I have Percy, and he's integral to the plot, but really, Percy doesn't give one rat's ass about my plot. He's not interested in what I want, or what other people want. Percy's interested in what ~Percy~ wants, and he sure as hell doesn't want my story, or my plot, or all those other characters.

Nope. Percy has his own agenda. He has things he needs to do that do not involve me, Dear Author, or you, Dear Reader.

Funny, because this is my fourth book, and I have a ton of short stories. I looked back over the old books, and some shorts, and realized I'd instinctively given all my characters their own agenda.

This guy Steve, he's in San Antonio not to meet this girl I wanted him to meet -- he's in San Antonio on business, with his company, even had to call in the next day, after I roped him into my plot. Steve had his own agenda, see. So did this girl I wanted him to meet, Amanda.

Harold -- God bless Harold -- he's not interested in my plot, or the things I have lined up for him. Nope, he's more interested in feeling sorry for himself, trying to gain pity from his daughter and his ex-wife, and wishing ill-fortune on his ex-wife's new boyfriend. Again, my character has his own agenda, and it's Eric v. Harry in The Keeper. I have to bend Harold to my will, and it's like ripping off a hangnail every single morning.

As a writer, I've always instinctively followed the rules, until they stump me, I suppose, and I'm forced to quantify just what the hell stumped me.

And this one stumped me, even though I've said it a million times: Remember the back-story!

Remember the individuality. Remember that your characters are not interested in YOU, the writer, they are interested only in themselves, their own desires, and they all, every last one of them, have their own ~what~, I ask you, Dear Reader, they all have their own ~what~?

They have their own agenda, you answer.

- Eric


Anonymous said...

Good point, one I've been thinking about myself. Percy Freebottom is a wonderful name for a character. I once had a cat named Percy.

Eric W. Trant said...

Percival is the only knight who sat on King Arthur's (Author's) Round Table, who was righteous enough to see the Holy Grail.

See, Percy's a hero's name, and a righteous one at that.

- Eric