Friday, June 15, 2012

Making pivotal choices matter more

            George Moore once wrote the difficulty of life is in the choice. As writers we love to make our protagonist make that all important choice. Lots of times it’s about the characters life and death. It could be their life or someone they love. Have you ever wondered why some of these decisions failed to cause a tear? The answer, as George so wonderfully articulated, is in the difficulty of the choice.

            What does that even mean?

            See if this helps a bit. Our protagonist’s name is Mike. His whole life he was taught to kill with a cold heart. He meets a girl, Sara, during his latest mission, and for some reason he can’t get this girl out of his head. She has no idea who he is or what he does, but Mike is fascinated with her, so much that after every kill, he spends time with her. Every time he’s with her, there is something new he learns. His latest visit, Mike tries to kill the multi hairy legged spider that has her so frighten, but she won’t let him. She tells him everything has the right to live and who are we to decide when anything should die. Mike is red-faced, unable to look at her, and then takes off. Later he finds out that she is his next victim. Mike immediately goes into his training and turns emotionless, but when he has her, she begs. Not for her life, but for his.

            Mike cries out, and all his anguish and hatred for what he has to do is coated in it. Then, after the unbearable moments that seem to take a lifetime, Mike points the barrel of the gun directly between her eyes, begins to squeeze the trigger. He can’t follow through though. Instead he buries the barrel inside his mouth, and as Sara screams in protest, Mike splatters his brains all over the place.

            Our protagonist just make a very difficult decision and it was hard because he had both the compassion to save a life and the coldness to take it away.  What would happen if the first time he met Sara was when she became the target? Mike would still have the same decision, kill or commit suicide. But it’s not a terribly difficult choice. I mean, why kill yourself for someone you don’t know?

            So that’s my apple of knowledge folks. The choice is now in your court. You can be delightfully evil by taking a bite and damning an entire race, or be unlawfully good so we don’t have any more zombies running around.



  1. When I read about tough choices in novels, it brights out such emotion. Now the tricky thing is to write it better myself :)

  2. I love it when my characters make the wrong decision because it makes everything that much trickier....

  3. I bet it's a trick to make Mike sympathetic, considering what he does for a living.