BEST FRIENDS: A Narrative Problem


In writing fiction, there’s a key narrative  change of direction which, if taken,  allows your characters to live a life of their own or, if not taken,  condemns them to live out some unresolved fuck-up in your own  psyche.

You create characters, try to involve your readers in their lives but you have to decide in which direction your narrative is going to take them – down into the gloomy depths of  thomashardy country or (eventually) up into the sunlit foothills of janeaustenland …..?

They went everywhere together, Charles and Mary.  She, the baker’s only child, very polite and well-behaved; he, the youngest son of  the Primary School Headmistress, lively, confident. Usually they went everywhere at a canter as if they knew that they had to hurry to pack  as much as possible into their  time together.  

Look at them! They are so proud to be with each other, they want the whole world to know that they are best friends.

* * *

12 years have passed and what a handsome, elegant  couple they have become, still in step, not so much in a hurry now but still hand in hand, still proud of each other, still heading in the right direction…….

And at this point you  have a writing problem:  a) do they go on  being happily in love, able to overcome problems because of these  feelings for one another or b)   does  it begin (and continue) to go all  wrong for them in spite of the love, friendship they have for each other?  

The direction the  narrative takes will tend to  reflect your  own life-view unless you steel yourself  like a good parent to let your characters go.

See how Mary is already more aware of being photographed by a stranger than of  being talked to by the ever-charming Charles.

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