Our guest today is author Kris Kennedy. Wife, mom and psychotherapist, Kris writes sexy, adventure-filled historical romances. Her current release, THE IRISH WARRIOR, won RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award for Best Historical Romance in 2008. Her next book, DEFIANT, comes out May 2011 from Pocket Books.
I believe this is one of the essential elements of good fiction. There are other elements to the stories that ‘grab’ us, but one of the main reasons fiction moves us is because characters do things we often back away from in real life: being irrevocable. Doing the thing that can’t be undone. Ringing the bell that can’t be unrung.
And doing it with actions that matter. In other words, I could spit on the sidewalk, and I can’t take that back, but what changes as a result? What consequences ensue? None and nothing. In our stories, though, characters say and do things that have consequences. They move into the After, and can’t ever go back to Before.
Irrevocable means it matters, and it means you’re committed. In for the long haul. The act, however unconsidered it might have been, is now binding.
For good or ill, that’s one of the most exciting parts of reading and writing fiction.
It’s part of the reason why the characters in novels don’t do the mundane tasks of their lives on stage. Things like cleaning the house don’t matter, in terms of Story. (Did you hear that? Just tell your family cleaning the toilet doesn’t have a fundamental turning point within, so you’re giving it up entirely. :-) ) Most of the mundane tasks of daily life are revocable. Nothing ‘turns’ on them. You could take them back, and no one would know or care. Nothing is fundamentally different as a result. They’re forgettable.
They never make a difference.
(In fact, cleaning is the the antithesis of irrevocable. At least in my house.)
You can walk away from a clean OR a dirty toilet. That is . . . unless you found a diamond ring resting there, after you’d pushed back the hair from your sweaty forehead with a forearm and knelt to scrub your 20th toilet of the week. And then you saw it. Sparkling. A diamond ring. Diamond rings don’t grow in toilet bowls, so that means someone lost it. Or tossed it. And you found it. And your rent is a month overdue.
NOW you have a story. Now you have a protagonist. Someone with a choice to make.
Make the right ones and you have a hero. Or a heroine.
In all our ‘keeper’ books, one of the things we generally find is characters actively getting themselves deeper and deeper into worse and worse trouble, particularly with the hero/heroine, and there’s simply no backing out. Nothing they do can be reversed.
Sometimes this is hard for us as authors. We like our heroes and heroines. We know their histories, their full potential and their pathetic pitfalls. We love them. Or at least really like them.
In any event, we want them to have a happy life. We don’t want them to be thrown to the wolves. To feel despair. To have Dark Nights of the Soul. To say ‘no’ when it’d be safer to say ‘okay, fine.’ To walk the plank. But we’ll do it.
For the reader.
Because in the end, we’re storytellers at heart. And while we might love our characters, we have to love Story more. We have to make our heroes and heroines walk through the fire. Happy, easy things happening to nice, good people, all of which can be taken back at the first sign of discomfort, is not drama.
Drama means conflict. And that means being committed. Doing, at least once, something that cannot be undone, ever.
Check out the books on your ‘keeper’ shelves. I’ll bet you can find at places the characters made irrevocable, un-take-back-able choices. Decisions that, even if done in the spur of the moment --especially if done in the spur of the moment!-- pushed them closer to the dark edge of What They Known, straight off the cliff into peril and danger and their own worst fears. Usually right in the hero’s (or heroine’s) arms.
Come share a moment of irrevocable choice in a book you’re reading or have read. A classic or an unknown.
And to the writers out there, what about the story you’re writing? Have an irrevocable choices? Unconsidered acts w/ real consequences that are un-take-back-able? What is irrevocably different after that choice, and why do you think it makes the story better?
I’m giving away a copy of my latest release, THE IRISH WARRIOR, to someone who gives a great example of irrevocability in romance fiction!
The Lady Scribes would like to thank Kris Kennedy for blogging for us today. Stop by her website http://kriskennedy.net to say Hi, sign up for the newsletter, get excerpts and all the latest news!