Since starting this review of the Pixar Rules and trying to apply them to my (failed) novel, a discovery is dawning at the edge of my consciousness.
Character is key.
So is plot and an emotional journey and all that jazz, but central to all that is character. I think I know my main character, but yesterday, while hanging out over on SFFWorld.com, I started some “table talk” with another author. While in our respective characters, we are trying to learn more about how our characters would react to certain situations. At a dinner table with a stranger, what would my character focus on? What questions would he ask? I am finding it really hard and I wonder if it is because I just don’t know my character enough or if it is because I haven’t been in his head, so to speak, for some time.
Anyway, it got me thinking about Pixar’s 6th Rule:
What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
Funny thing is – I did exactly that in my novel, but apparently, it didn’t work out so well.
I think the concept of this rule is valid. It is imperative to put your characters in uncomfortable positions and confront them with challenging situations and people. But I also think it has to be done is such a way that, well, it makes sense.
This is where the melding of character and plot makes or breaks your story. And using the above ‘rule’ as a writing exercise, and not as a hard story element, might be a more prudent approach to learn more about your character, whether those situations end up in your story or not.
Adding challenges to your story is always fun, and one does learn a lot about your characters when you do that, but remember to ensure a smooth story line that will keep your readers from going ‘Huh? Why is this happening?’
Until later, write in character.