character-driven plot

100-word wonders: Agency

Hey. Syawn here.

We've decided a picture of me should be posted at the top of the post whenever I'm the one writing it, apparently to make sure everyone understands who's talking. Fair enough, as some newcomers might  otherwise assume that the so-called Inkcaster was capable of writing her own bloody blog posts.

We’ve decided a picture of me should be posted at the top of the post whenever I’m the one writing it, apparently to make sure everyone understands who’s talking. Fair enough, as some newcomers might otherwise assume that the so-called Inkcaster was capable of writing her own bloody blog posts.

I’ve started a weekly challenge for my author. It’s a good way to keep her on track. This challenge will be to write exactly 100 words on whatever subject I’m wondering about at the time, every Tuesday.

Why Tuesday? she asks. Because today is Tuesday, and I’ll not let her put it off for one more day.

Why whatever subject you’re wondering about? What about subjects I’m wondering about? the author asks, affronted. Because if I let her pick, she would be all day dithering between one musing and another.

Why 100 words precisely? she asks. Because I said so.

Why agency? Because Tirzah has been thinking about it, and sometimes I’m kind enough to defer the choosing to her.

Why, I’ll even let her go first in the lineup. Have at ye, author, for no more nor fewer than a hundred words of wondering, then I air my thoughts, then she’ll wrap it up.

*****

I was actually wondering how much characters need to have to be good characters.

By agency, I mean a person’s capacity to direct themselves and effect their world, rather than all the direction and effect coming from the outside in.

Can a character be forever pushed about and tossed by the winds of circumstance, and the story still be a good story?

Hmmn, not in my book. The circumstantial winds may blow, but the character needs to effect the story, or else they seem pointless as a character—a simple viewing window into a plot, when I’m wanting a person.

*****

In Ever the Actor, I actually sacrificed a considerable amount of agency, allowing myself to be pushed about by “the winds of circumstance” in the form of a nine year old mage. (Now there was a little girl with a ridiculous amount of agency.)

 However, the agency I sacrificed was for the cause of gaining greater agency, and I still left my mark on the world along the way. I wasn’t so much wind-tossed as… self-directed into being directed by someone else.

By the end of the tale, though… any agency I’d felt I had was thrown to the winds.

*****

Yes, you do start out drifting rather aimlessly in your sequel  (as the title “Scriptless” suggests) but you get the hang of improv fairly quickly, and boom, you’re advising revolutionaries.

 You just can’t help taking ahold of yourself and the world again, even if you don’t know what to do with either. You have more inborn agency than nearly anyone else on your planet.

I don’t think that degree of world-shaking agency is required in a story, but it must be there. The MC, antagonist, bit-parters… A story needs to be moved by its people—or else it’s not theirs.

*****

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