Big Reactions

We couldn’t do a bonfire today. Or burn an effigy. This makes me sad. But I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to do it next year. So instead, we played D&D. Like you do.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about that one famous guy who had a pet bear in university. He did this because he was not permitted to have a dog. A very strong example of, “If you can’t beat ’em, hit ’em wit your car.” Go big or go home, indeed.

I think that applying this kind of reaction to a situation to writing fiction is a great idea. Be it as small as being denied a pet, or as big as having one’s life threatened. Often, you will get advice urging you to make your characters proactive rather than reactive. However, this does limit the stories you can tell.

You can have a proactive character at least begin with a reaction. The trick is to make it a big reaction. A young lady loses her father and so finds herself penniless and starving. She could beg, prostitute herself, or die like the little match girl. What she does is stage an assassination attempt on the king, and “foils” it hoping for a reward. Without an accomplice.

Another method is to paint them into a corner. This inevitably leaves you with a reactive path–unless the character is Batman–but a very strong incentive to make their reaction incredible. Characters who get out of a desperate situation in a subtle or boring way have failed. Even a rescue can be dramatic, rather than a deus ex machina.

There is always room for rhythm in any story. Sometimes things are quiet, sometimes they are loud. Sometimes the heroes are in concert, sometimes they are biting each other’s heads off. However, characters have an uphill battle to get reader attention. A lot of people love Twilight, but Bella is not a widely loved character. Deadpool, on the other hand…


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