Sunday, April 8, 2012

Get rid of those duckies

A few days ago I was backing out of my driveway. The high school bus was just pulling up so I waited a moment so I could say hi to my seventeen-year-old son.

The kids filed off the bus one by one. Then I saw my son. In his left hand he was carrying….

a giant, yellow stuffed duckie.

He saw me watching him and looked sheepish. I couldn't help but smirk at his early Easter gift when he got close enough to my rolled down window.

“That’s what you get for dating a fifteen-year-old girl,” I told him.

My son rolled his eyes and said, “I don’t get it. I have to register for the draft and will be old enough to go to war this year but I still got a duck.”

I felt bad for the girl. She’d tried to be nice (and I’m sure my son accepted it graciously) but really? What kind of self-respecting teenage boy wants a giant duckie? It’s not like he’s going to put it on his bed.** Candy would have been more appropriate and appreciated. But the giver was a young girl and she probably just picked something she wanted. It was easier.

Flash forward to yesterday. I’m tweaking a subplot in my WIP. What I’ve set up isn’t quite working and I realized the problem is that I got in one of my character’s way. I gave her something (a boyfriend) and it was throwing a kink in the story. Like my son’s duckie, the boyfriend was an easier choice but wasn’t right for her. I don’t mean he wasn’t good for her; I mean that she shouldn’t have a boyfriend at all. There wasn’t enough conflict with him around. And now that I’m in the muddled middle of my story, I need to keep upping my stakes. (So guess who's getting a boyfriend-dectomy today.)

I think sometimes we forget to listen to what our characters want or fail to know them fully. And sometimes we give them what we want them to have - and forget to give them what they need. But it’s our job as authors to tell the story. And sometimes that means getting rid of those duckies.

Take a look at what you’re working on right now. Are you staying true to your character's needs or are you giving them what you want them to have? Because there’s a difference.


**In case you’re curious about what my son did with his duckie: he gave it to me to pass along to the little boy I babysit.


  1. Easy solution. Your son should go to the University of Oregon next year and his stuffed ducky wouldn't be unusal at all.

    In writing characters, apply the same skewed logic. Make the 'just wrong' fit the plot. I don't know what you'll do with your MC's boyfriend, but dropping out of a plane and being squashed flat gives an interesting out for her. Or maybe the MC will realize she's just not ready for the commitment (duller than BF flattened).

    1. Maybe I should hold a contest - best way to do away with an unnecessary boyfriend. :-)

  2. I hope the girl never asks your son what happened to the stuffed duck. :) Maybe he better come up with an answer for her just in case. I'm just saying. :)


    1. Agreed! (I hope she doesn't google me and find this blog either....)


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