You know that old joke-riddle:
Which weighs more, a hundred pounds of feathers or a hundred pounds of hammers?
The first time we heard it, our minds instinctively ran to the common-sense place where quickthink logic superseded actual logic. Hammers are way heavier than feathers. So, hammers weigh more.
But then we realized: No, dumbass, 100 lbs is 100 lbs.
The hammers and the feathers weigh the same.
Let’s extrapolate that a bit. I wonder how often that common-sense, quickthink logic overrules the better, more accurate kind in everyday life. I’m guessing a lot.
How many decisions do I make throughout a day where I come up with a quick, logical answer and run with it? What if I had slowed down and weighed that decision to make sure it was the best one–the correct one–instead of merely the quickest one to pounce on me and dig its claws in?
Hammer answers come quickly enough.
And a lot of the time, they are wrong.
[Now, I could very easily branch off here, take the idea of ALL THE CHOICES and go into thoughts on multiverses, many-world theory, and the like. But I won’t. I’ll focus. I just wanted you to know that I weighed that decision and chose not to take that path.]
So, decisions/answers/choices. The first one to pop in my head is not always the best one. I’m guessing the same is true for you.
George punches you in the nose.
Stunned, you blink through the surprise, tears, pain, and anger to confront the asshole.
He says, “Your move. What you gonna do next?”
Visceral responses flash in your mind: uppercut, leg sweep, groin kick, fist to the throat, chainsaw.
Then [maybe] your pulse slows and you try to remember why George punched you in the face in the first place.
Maybe you shouldn’t respond with hammers, but with feathers.
Or maybe both those answers are wrong.
I still hear folks being all butthurt about writers writing blogs about writing.
Cater to your future readers and fans. Build a fanbase of non-writers.
That shit is whack. I make this choice: to write what I want to write about. And, right now, I love writing.
So, I choose to write about whatever pops in my head. And often, like today, those thoughts drop breadcrumbs towards the topic of writing.
Like this: I make my characters not choose the answer of “hammers”.
1) It is wrong
2) It is boring
When drafting a scene, obvious choices appear for the characters. I could easily enough have them follow that path down the predictable. But it is so much more fun to have them go another route. I ask: What if they chose feathers instead? Or what if they got the answer correct and said “neither”? Or what if they said, “Eff the feathers and the hammers. My answer is tacos.”
This kind of character decision-making makes for a much better story. More excitement. More punch. More tension.
Nobody wants a snotty MC who always gets it right–who always makes the safe, correct choice. We also don’t want them to make the wrong choice if it is glaringly obvious that they most likely will.
In other words, take the time to weigh the choices at decisive moments in your narrative. Sometimes, you might need to go the feather route, sometimes the hammer and chainsaw way, sometimes send your characters down the path of 100 lbs of tacos.
And don’t stress, the revision stage is where you can explore the multiverse idea of the path not taken.
[Ha! I slipped the topic back in again. Because I chose to.]
CHOOSE ALL THE TACOS.