|Photo credit: Jonathan_n | sxc.hu|
So, you have this amazing story and you need some people to act it out in your book. Well, you've come to the write place. In 5 simple steps, I'm going to tell you how to write the perfect actors--ones on strings, no less!
Step 1: Think about your storyline and decide what stereotypes would best fit the plot's needs. Go beyond, "I'll need a good guy and a bad guy." If you need your bad guy to be stealing something, make him the quintessential thief (you know: mask, big black bag, tiptoes across rooflines--the works). If your good guy needs to be a romantically interesting rancher, go all-out Roy Rogers.
Step 2: Pick some names that fit your stereotypes in Step 1. Also, good guys must have good-sounding names and bad guys need to have names that smack of evil and darkness. Be careful to draw this distinction; you really don't want people getting confused at any point.
Step 3: As you begin writing, make sure to tell the narrative bits in the stiffest way possible. (Like a sports commentator--minus the excitability. "He picked up the guitar. He then began to play and sing. Everyone in the room listened.") Remember, these are just puppets, so you really just have to report their movements as succinctly and factually as possible.
Step 4: Also, the perfect puppet will deliver his lines flawlessly and say exactly what he should. (Oh, and puppets usually use near-perfect grammar in everything they say.) The words will be just right, so don't worry about the delivery or pacing or spacing or stuttering or repeating oneself or misunderstandings that come about in real-life conversation. Never forget: puppets aren't very creative by themselves.
Step 5: Don't get too involved in fleshing out your puppets because if you allow them backstories, feelings, motives, character, and individual personalities, you may find you have difficulty keeping them to exactly what you've mapped out. This step is extremely important. Be very careful, or you might end up with people instead of puppets. And characters with backstories, feelings, motives, character, and personalities drive stories. Really good ones.
What books have you read that made you feel like the character of the characters was not driving the story, but being driven by it? What tips might help us all avoid this in our writing?