At some point in the past, I noticed that one of the trickiest things about writing is the choreography. I was writing a scene that took place during a party, and I needed the main character to talk to first one set of people and then another overlapping set, and later to be alone with somebody. Something like that.
My challenge was figuring out how to get the right characters into the right combinations and places so that the scene read naturally, without anyone saying anything so blatant as, "Well, I'm going to go talk to those other people now." (Okay, I'll admit I may have tried that tactic once or twice at an actual party.) Compared to the work of managing these logistics, writing the dialogue in the scene was downright easy.
I've tackled countless other choreography problems since then. Today, I was struggling with a scene because of another familiar issue, and I realized it's sort of a variation. I started thinking of the problem as "the choreography of motivation".
In this case, I had a character who did not want to have the discussion that his family members were trying to have with him. The character's goal was simply to leave. But as the author, I had a different agenda: I needed a certain amount of discussion to take place so that crucial pieces of information could be revealed at this point in the story.
The author doesn't get to take part in the scene, so I had to carefully choreograph my character's motivations throughout. His overall desire was still to get out of there, but on a moment-by-moment basis, the other characters said things that believably kept him around and talking a little longer. "Believable" is the key issue here. If the character just sat down and agreeably participated in the discussion he'd been avoiding since the beginning of the book, the reader would find his behavior false and inconsistent.
I may not have gotten it right, and there may not be enough justification for the character's actions in this scene. When I eventually seek feedback on this draft, I'll be counting on my readers to point out the places where I've inadequately choreographed my characters' motivations.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ Lauren Schmidt at the Effectivism blog looks into how to buy a greener book: "What has a lower carbon footprint — buying a book from a local store or ordering it online? What about buying your books via a Kindle or other e-reader?"
→ Rebecca Joines Schinsky of the Book Lady's Blog offers her Mid-Year Reflections on Book Polygamy: "I was skeptical at first, not certain that reading more than one book at a time would mean that I read more books overall, but it’s shaking out to look that way."