Paula looks at the different opportunities and options we give our characters.
Just like ourselves in real life, our characters have to
make choices. We present them with a variety of Opportunities as we write their
stories. Often they have an Option to accept or reject the Opportunity; other
times they have obligations (another O word!) that may dictate their reactions
or may cause them to agonise.
The choices they make can resolve a problem, or create a
problem. One interesting comment I read recently was: When a character is faced
with 2 options, both should have positive and negative consequences.
In His Leading Lady,
Jess is asked to impersonate her twin sister who has gone missing. She has to
weigh up the pros and cons: trying to save her sister’s career versus doubts
whether she can fool people, especially the director of the show, Kyle
Drummond, to whom she has taken an instant dislike.
Later in the story, she is offered the lead role in Kyle
Drummond’s new show in London’s West End, in place of her sister. An amazing
Opportunity, but this time, she has to consider her other obligations – to her
sister who has always dreamt of a lead role like this, and to her friend who is
her business partner in a dance and drama shop and business.
With both these Opportunities, Jess eventually chose the
right Option, but there are times when our characters make the wrong decisions.
Jess did that when she chose to believe something a friend told her, not
blindly, but because other evidence led her to believe it was true.
There are times when a character genuinely believes she has
no Option but to pursue a particular course of action. In Her Only Option, Neve thinks (as the title suggests) that she only
has one option, even though it is a heartbreaking one.
Sometimes the reader is led to believe the character’s
decision is the right one, even when it might not be. Other times, they’re
aware it’s probably the wrong one, and is then waiting for the fall-out. Either
way, it adds to the tension that keeps a reader reading!