Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Fun Option

If you've ever watched a cartoon where a character is on the ground and something heavy is falling from the sky, it will hit that character. It doesn't matter if the character stands still, steps away, runs across town, or hops a plane to China; he's gonna get crushed (and I am not being inaccurate to specify "he" in this case).

In storytelling, as in life, you sometimes find yourself in a dilemma: you have two possible choices, and you have absolutely no idea which one is the right choice. Because of the rules of drama, you are almost guaranteed to make the wrong decision. So what do you choose?

Surprisingly enough, this is the easiest situation to be in. Since you are guaranteed to fail, you are no longer trying to succeed. And when your goal is not success, the only other decision to make is what is the most fun.

If I was a cartoon character with a safe headed my way, I would to my nemesis and give him a great big hug, just so he can get hurt as badly as me. Or maybe I would sit on top of a gigantic spring so that when the safe hits, it will charge up the spring, which will allow me to fly.

Of course, no matter what, you can make any of those situations catastrophically worse (again, the rules of drama). But the point remains that, when you are experiencing the situation, you should choose the fun option.

When you're a writer, you should never create this situation. Compelling stories involve choices and repercussions. If a character's fate is sealed before their choice is made, then you are robbing both your characters and your readers of any true excitement or thrill. If it just so happens that you are stuck in a no-win situation, then I do recommend that you at least choose the fun option.

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