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01/16/2008: Investment Pays Off
I've been looking over past entries from this our shared blog, Gentle Readers, and I've noticed that I've talked a lot about making sure that, as often as possible, your jokes are used to express character. It occurs to me now that there's no reason to limit this idea to jokes. You may find yourself writing the dourest darkest drama unleavened by any humor (although I hope not -- everything's better with some funny in it), and you should still make an effort to make sure that the lines your characters speak are constructed to illuminate who they are.
In order to accomplish this, it helps if all of your characters have attitudes, actual opinions about what's going on in the story. Got a character who isn't invested in the story? How about making him SO uninvested that he's advocating not going on the adventure at all? Now he's got a positive agenda, something to argue for, not just against. ("Hey, guys, if we call off the assassination, we can still get to the park by the third inning...")
Got two characters who don't have opinions about the A-story? Maybe they could have an unrelated B-story conflict that makes them instinctively take opposite sides on some A-story issue. Again, you're finding a way to make every line they say reveal something about what's going on with them.
By the way, that's a great rule of thumb for any scene... if a character doesn't have a logical reason to take a certain action or advocate for a certain position, then give them an emotional reason. Like, for example, antipathy toward the hero or a desire to sleep with the villain or an unconscious identification with the victim... find a way to keep them invested.
Characters who care deeply, even if it's for bad reasons, are going to make every scene about themselves. Which you know, if you've ever been in the middle of a group of people who think every scene is about themselves, is very, very good for drama.
STRIKE NEWS: I'll be picketing at my new usual location tomorrow: NBC Burbank, but at a special time. I'm going to be there, I believe from 11:30 to 2:30 with the Women of Sci Fi! This is an amazing group, and if you can stop by and walk with us, I think you'll be inspired. UPDATE: I think now that I will actually be there from 10 to 1, due to a conflict with another obligation. Come early to see me, or later to see the rest of the Sci Fi group.
Lunch: scrambled eggs with a chopped-up potsticker and crumbled Doritos scrambled in. A triumph.