You’ve written you characters into a corner. Now what? Before you hit the “Delete” button, seize the opportunity to create a little magic.
A one of my author friends, Chris Smith, and I were sharing stories across Facebook the other night, and we discussed one of his scenes where two male characters where trapped in a locked room. After joking about how it’s so easy to write characters into corners, we ended up joking about zany ideas to get the characters out of the room without rewriting the thing. After a few MacGyver jokes and discussions on what the characters might use, we finally had one of them pull a Victoria’s Secret credit card out of his wallet… The rest is history.***
The point: don’t feel like you have to backtrack in order to keep your characters out of the proverbial corner you accidentally wrote them into. Take a chance and stick with what you’ve already done and see what happens. Some of my favorite parts of The Elysian Chronicles happened because I refused to backtrack and forced my characters to find a way out.
Forcing your characters to find their own way out of a dire situation makes them stronger. No, not in a “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” kind of a a way, but in a character development kind of a way. Conflict fleshes out a character, and helps the reader gain a better understanding of who he or she is. If you haven’t read the new version of A Prophecy Forgotten (with the sword on the cover), you haven’t read my revamped first chapter. In it, I put a young soldier named Alexor in a dire situation he can’t escape from. He makes a decision in favor of honor. It tells the reader everything she needs to know about Alexor, which is good because I only have a few pages with him.
For a tempting instant, Alexor considered leaping off Jeleth’s back, hiding in the trees, and then soaring into the sky. Though many frowned upon it, Elysia did not penalize soldiers who abandoned a unicorn who had agreed to bear them. Protecting the scroll was paramount, he tried to reason.
Alexor clenched Jeleth’s mane harder, resisting the temptation to bolt. He would rather die with honor than live as a coward.
Alexor’s choice costs him his life, but the readers have a better idea of who he is because I forced him into a dire situation.
Forcing yourself to use your own world and follow your world’s rules makes the world feel real. This is especially true in speculative fiction. In A Prophecy Forgotten, Davian needs an explosive projectile to help him get out of a jam. I wasn’t sure what to use. Then I remembered that my mornacht creatures explode when they die. If their bodies explode, so would their blood. Therefore…
[Davian] saw another large group of mornachts sneaking up on a shelter in a nearby tree. He grabbed a bottle off of a shelf, jumped on top of the dead mornacht, and cut its throat.
“Ten are sneaking toward another shelter, Marcus!” he said as he filled the bottle with the mornacht’s blood. “Wait for my signal!”
He looked at the mornacht on the floor. Hot steam began to seep out its nose.
Steam started spewing out of its armor like a mad teakettle.
A spark flew off its body.
“Now!” Davian threw the bottle at the sneaking mornachts, and it exploded just before he and Marcus jumped in to finish the job.
Basically, Davian used a molotov cocktail filled with mornacht blood–something a character within that world would actually have done. Working within the rules of my world makes rules feel more real.
Your creative juices could create something awesome! Most of the weapons I’ve created in The Elysian Chronicles are direct results of writing my characters into sticky situations. I created smokers and blinders out of necessity, obviously, but my newest favorite “weapon” happened In Out of the Shadows when Davian and his men were flying through a dark wood at night, trying to escape Picante and his soldiers. I had my “Oh crud, they aren’t getting out of this” moment, and then I thought about what could stop an angel flying through trees: blindness. Fortunately, Davian was carrying a gnome named Klous, who always has a few tricks up his sleeves.
Davian relayed the message to Marcus and Tyce and signaled for retreat. Thirty soldiers were too many. He wrapped his arm around Klous, and low-hovered through the woods.
Behind them, Picante’s soldiers shouted, realizing their escape. Davian turned and saw dark outlines of Black Guard flying over and under branches, gaining on them. “They’re not mornachts,” Davian muttered. Mornachts were bound to the ground, making it easy for cherubians to escape them using the low-hover. Picante and his soldiers could fly, and they had no interest in maintaining secrecy. Davian whistled again, and everyone rose out of low-hover and flew through the trees.
An arrow whizzed by Davian’s head. Darkness. He needed darkness. “I wish I had a blinder,” Davian muttered.
“Blinder?” said Klous.
“It’s like a smoker, but with a flash of light that blinds your opponent. Gives you extra time to hide in the smoke.”
“Fly down,” said Klous.
“Fly down. Get me some dirt.”
“Do you want a blinder or not, Seraph?”
Davian soared down, grabbed a handful of dirt, and handed it to Klous.
The gnome reached into his pocket and pulled out a clear prism. He closed his hands around the dirt and the prism and shook them up and down. “In five seconds tell your men to hide.”
“We don’t have time, Klous. They’re right behind us.”
“Trust me, Seraph. Tell them now!”
Davian whistled the signal, and the RSOs disappeared into the trees. Klous tossed the dirt into the air. With a wave of his hand, it turned into sparkling dust, dissipating into white specs of light. The particles exploded in thousands of blinding flashes. The Black Guard yelled and covered their eyes. Some rammed into trees. Others dropped to the ground.
Keep your eyes open; you’ll find a way out. Make sure to put yourself into the scene and do your own search for escape. One of my latest Elysian Chronicles short stories, “The Cherubian, the Lindworm, and the Portal,” gave me that opportunity. Davian and his friends had retreated into a woods and were surrounded by enemies. I put myself in the scene and tried to find a way out. There it was: a mamoth tree with large roots. (The trees in in Elysia are bigger than earthian trees.) I sent Davian and company under the roots to hide. Of course, be keep your mind open even after you find an escape route or hiding spot. Davian and his soldiers ended up getting jumping in mud.
[Davian] flung himself under the root before the smoke could clear.
He immediately wished he had chosen a different hiding place. Cold mud seeped into his boots, around his thighs, and between his breastplate and tunic. Maggots crawled out of the mire. He could feel them brushing around his body.
Eric, who was stuck in more of the mud, sent Davian a frustrated glare.
I didn’t know the mud was there until after the characters dove under the roots. Lucky them, eh? But they are alive because I put myself into the scene and found them a place to hide.
***Note: As of this writing, Chris has informed me that the door is probably dead bolted and therefore the Victoria’s Secret card will be declined. He is making other arrangements that would make MacGyver proud, but the Victoria’s Secret card will still be a vital part of the scene.
Do you have M. B. Weston’s Elysian Chronicles on your Kindle yet? Get them now for only $2.99–less than the cost of a Starbucks Latte! (Click here for A Prophecy Forgotten on Kindle and Out of the Shadows on Kindle.)
Join in the discussion at M. B. Weston’s Treetop Inn group on Facebook!
Fantasy, steampunk, and paranormal novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. Weston is also the hose of The Final Cut In Movies radio show that airs on TMV Cafe Monday nights at 8:00 EST. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. To receive notification of M. B. Weston’s book releases click here to subscribe to Dark Oak Press & Media’s e-newsletter.