Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My thoughts on squirrels, active characters and life in general

First, before any more coherent thoughts,


Let this day go down in history as the day that I, for the first time in more than ten years, saw a squirrel.

I was wandering through my local park, listening to music and trying to avoid construction works and raindrops. And then, there on the path ahead of me, was a squirrel!

We eyed each other. It dashed off towards the safety of another tree, and I followed it as innocently as I could. It disappeared behind one tree, emerged, disappeared again, and the next I saw it, it was sitting in the crook of a branch eyeing me as innocently as it could.

I stopped pretending I wasn't following it and circled round and round the tree, trying to get a better look and possibly coax it down to be my pet.

Yes, I know squirrels don't make good pets.

It had seemed grey on the path to my barely-legal-to-drive vision (I promise I wear glasses when I drive), but up closer its head looked kind of reddish brown. I wondered if red squirrels and grey squirrels could mate, and if so, was this one of their offspring? Furthermore, was the union condoned by squirrel society, or was it a Romeo-and-Juliet situation?

It retreated further up the tree and I lost sight of it, so I stopped harassing the poor squirrel and continued my walk.

Today is Wednesday, which used to be Round the World Wednesday and is now just Wednesday. Why waste the alliteration, though? Starting from this week, I will try to post something writing- or round-the-world-related on Wednesdays, and Life-in-London-related on Saturdays, because there is no day of the week starting with 'L'. For those living in the future relative to London, this will probably mean Thursday and Sunday.

I realise squirrels are not particularly writing-related (though they are masterfully used in many stories, such as Up and Squirrel Nutkin), so I'll get on to the writing stuff.

People like to read about active characters: characters who fix things, or have adventures, or make stupid choices that lead them down hilarious paths you're glad you never had to go down. Unless your story is the kind where heroines (or heroes) wail 'woe is me' and wait for the handsome prince/princess to rescue them, your main character should be active. If there's a problem, they do something about it, even if they do the wrong thing.

I've been editing some of my old writing and realising that, even though I thought my character was 'active' (that's what I write when I describe her personality, after all), in a lot of places she doesn't really do anything. I create situations for her to be in, she is present while things happen around her, and then she does a bit of complaining and drifts to the next situation. Every so often she makes a choice, but they're all offered to her. She doesn't go out and grab them, or think seriously about what to do next.

I'm missing an opportunity here. She needs to be a proper participant in her scenes, rather than someone that things just happen to. It'll be more interesting to read, I hope, and might bring up some new, character-driven situations.

This is a good way to look at life, too. Don't just sit and wait for things to happen to you. Get out there and do it.

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