If you were your character…

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Today, I will address rule #15 of Emma Coats’ 22 Rules of Storytelling.

If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

In Something Different This Year, I would feel disregarded and disrespected. I would feel like directing loyalty toward myself and my teaching approach, rather than the school system’s. And I would, in my perfect world, want to do just what the teacher is planning to do— undermine ‘conventional wisdom’. To that character, wisdom comes from knowing her students and what she thinks they need and what she thinks would keep them engaged and interested and willing to invest themselves in their own learning, rather than play the role of robots.

In Stealth Students, if I were to witness the same loss of teaching and learning time, I would be just as frustrated as they were. Would I be taking those steps that they were taking? Probably not, because as a student, I tended to try to work within the system. In a way, that is what they are doing, at least to the point of still completing their assignments, but when given the chance, they work outside the system and bend school rules. Not in a hostile or malicious way, but in a way that feeds their need to maximize their time at school.

I would want to join these students. I would follow them to see what they were up to. I would see that they were on to something interesting and valuable and so if I were excluded, I would at least follow their example. If I were included, t’s possible I might be a little annoying to them. I would be supportive of all that they were doing. And I would ask a lot of questions.

In my foreign student story, I would at first feel intimidated. As a newcomer both socially and culturally, I would want to get a lay of the land. I would probably be overly vigilant about what I said and did, especially if I faced the bigotry that Anand faces. In a more perfect world, he would ‘play within himself’ and deflect the hatred and bias directed toward him, and lump the teacher’s childish bigotry in with the bullies.

In my Lisa G story, if I were her, I would probably, as in Stealth Students, try to stay below the radar. But I guess I’m discovering that half the fun of writing the stories is letting the characters pull off what I probably never would have pulled off.

I like her independence and her ability to shut out all the distractions, preferring to remain in her own little bubble of curiosity and creativity. She doesn’t seem fazed by the disapproval and, at times, even toys with characters like Mrs. B and Heather.

In Zucchini, I would probably react like Beth and I’m not sure if I would ever come around, despite the obvious enjoyment and fun her dad is gaining from their adventure. I would possibly be too self-conscious and too wary of being discovered by the other kids in the neighborhood.

In Bubbe and Bubba, I would, like the main character, enjoy serving as a bit of a promoter, especially considering there was good cooking involved.

Sitting down with your characters…

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As I embark on a new story, a timely resource from K.E. Weiland

I will say, though, that the interview technique doesn’t work for all writers. Some prefer to let key traits unfold along with the story.

I straddle the fence on this, as I like a quick get-acquainted visit and then I move on to  other prewriting ventures.

Whatever your leaning, however, spending time with this and other posts on her site always pays off.