Sunday, February 28, 2010
Mark My Words!
What do we mean when we say “mark my words?” We usually mean our words have communicated a truth about something that has yet to come to pass. We tend to be smug in our assertions about the future based on what we see or experience now. For example, let’s say the neighbor’s kid just hit you with a water balloon. In a huff you say: “That kid is going to be nothing but trouble when he grows up. You mark my words!” You are the all powerful seer and people should mark your words because they will be true someday. As much power as our words have, we are not all powerful, especially when it comes to other peoples’ lives or even the lives of the characters we create.
Of course, your words could have an effect if you actually said them to the kid. It gets messy when we use our words to try to change others, though. The opposite of what we want can happen and they may resent or blame us. The only person you can really change is yourself. And even then don’t be so smug as to mark your words for yourself. You’re an organic being, always in flux. Don’t tell yourself you’ll only be one way. If you think about it, you’re never exactly the way you were the day before. That’s great news! We can’t really be poured into some mold of our own or someone else’s creation and be permanently fixed forever in a certain form.
Remember, that I mentioned not marking your words about the characters you create? If you are going to tell a good story, your characters need to be allowed to take on a life of their own. Your character outline is not something you want to write in stone. As you write, your characters will surprise you. Let them. They may lead you to a better story or give you clues as to where you might want to take the plot next.
Be open to the creative process and to life. Things don’t work well boxed in and rarely do things go exactly how you thought they would. So relax, enjoy, and see what happens next.