Part of what makes stories so much fun is the drama involved: Will the hero conquer the villain? Will the princess find her true love? Will the puppy make its way home? But, what happens when we find our characters strive more for realism than for drama?
Every story needs some kind of emotional resonance for it to have impact, whether it’s about war or heartbreak or family experience. Sometimes, though, our characters become so much their own people that they end up dictating where their own stories go. I’ve written scenes – necessary ones – for their dramatic effect…but I’ve also had to rewrite other scenes because the characters’ voices had developed so much since my initial plotting that their actions (or reactions) as I’d originally envisioned simply no longer held true to their natures.
What do you do in this situation? Do you let the character take over, possibly sacrificing the drama of the scene? Or, do you follow through with the original idea, possibly sacrificing believability for the character?
It’s okay to play Loosey Goosey in some instances: maybe the hero isn’t in his right mind at the moment and makes a snap judgment against character; maybe the heroine is torn by the conflict facing her and decides on one route over another because her values are confused. Written well, with the associating consequences, those options are totally valid. But, what do you do when your original big conflict becomes significantly less climactic than originally envisioned, because your darned MC has grown up too much over the course of the story?
I’m a big fan of sweeping epics, and last-minute, nerve-wracking climaxes where the audience is led to page after page to see what happens next. But I also believe in, well, believability in a story. The hero shouldn’t overcome the conflict just because the story needs a climax; he should do so because that’s what he has to do, to progress, grow, and change. It may make for less high drama, but it may also make for more realism.
But that’s just my opinion. Which do you prefer: realism or drama?