I know why This Chosen Fate was giving me such a hard time, and now I’m kind of kicking myself.
I thought I just wasn’t in the right mood or mindset to tackle the story right now, or something…eh, I should know better. Being a writer means being able to write oneself into the appropriate mood, if necessary, which was why I was so frustrated. I should have known that meant something was wrong with the story itself. That’s almost always the culprit behind my bouts of writers’ block…an issue with story structure.
On the way back from Thanksgiving with family, I was listening to music in the car and not really thinking about much of anything. The song “Beyond These Shores” came up on my playlist, which is very much connected to that story in my mind. So again my mind starts spinning around the question that’s been bothering me about This Chosen Fate for a long time: “What does Lauren (the main character) want?”
GMC, again. (Goal, Motivation, Conflict). Three things a writer must know about a character:
Goal: What does that character want?
Motivation: Why do they want it?
Conflict: What is keeping them from getting it?
If any of those are underdeveloped or inconsistent, one’s story will suffer. Sometimes it will be obvious, but most of the time GMC problems are subtle. As in, I know something’s wrong with the story but I can’t put my finger on what it is. Where I feel like I’m the one driving the story, and not the characters, even though as far as I can tell, the characters are responding appropriately to the stimuli I’m giving them.
As it turns out, I was giving Lauren the wrong stimuli.
Lauren was always supposed to be a typical just out of high schooler who isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life, and resents being pressured to make those decisions. All well and good…but difficult for me, the writer, to work with, for the reasons mentioned above. I knew Lauren’s initial decision to spend a summer on the schooner was motivated by her not wanting to decide anything about college, etc…and I thought what I needed to do was to have her adventure on the Waters motivate her to go home and make those decisions.
And it just…never really worked. Part of the problem was that I was treating Lauren’s getting stuck out on the Waters as a bad thing…and thus as something she didn’t want…because she would need those feelings in order to make her want to get back home initially. (Before she came to her realization of Responsibility, or whatever I was going to do). The whole “conscripted into a pirate crew” really doesn’t work otherwise.
But…why should Lauren protest getting stuck on the Waters? If she truly did go to Maine in order to delay having to make grown-up decisions, wouldn’t she welcome an adventure that took her out of the real world completely? It’s the perfect excuse: “Gee, I’d love to pick a college but I just got whisked away from Earth completely against my will…sorry!”
That’s when I realized that Lauren is kind of an escapist. When faced with the choice between cultivating the grass on her side of the fence or running off to find the greener grass…she’ll run. And if that grass isn’t green enough, she’ll leave it for the far-off meadow. She doesn’t want to have to initiate the momentous things that happen in her life…she wants to “happen” to be in the right place at the right time so she can “jump in”. She wants destiny to find her, and when things don’t work out, clearly it’s because it wasn’t “meant to be” and it’s time to move on.
So maybe, at the beginning of the story, the thrill of being part of a schooner crew was beginning to wear off of Lauren, and it was starting to feel like “just another job”? Maybe she was getting restless? Feeling that this “dream job” actually wasn’t? Given that, getting stuck out on the Waters is exactly the sort of momentous happening she would been waiting for. She’d be begging to join Alex’s pirate crew.
Technically, I still don’t know what Lauren wants…but I do know that whatever it is, she wants it handed to her with Destiny’s seal of approval. And that changes her whole outlook and my whole approach to this story.
She joins a schooner crew in Maine, thinking awesome adventuring was all part of the job…and discovers even a dream job can get boring. So she runs away (granted, not on purpose, but she’s not protesting) and
Joins a pirate crew, thinking it’s going to be fun and easy (given her experience) and she’ll fit right in…and then discovers that it’s not easy, that there’s a lot she doesn’t know, and that she has to struggle to make the others accept her. So she plans to escape onto one of the Docks and start her grand adventure over
Until Alex explains in great detail exactly what will happen to a lone human girl on alien shores. Now she can’t run. Now for the first time in her life, she has to stay and deal with the situation she’s in. She literally cannot escape. She will hate that. But she will learn from it…
Until she falls for Alex. Because it will feel like a fairy-tale romance, and she will expect it to work out perfectly. She’ll plan out a whole scenario of him coming back with her. She’ll fall back into the mindset of wanting Destiny to take care of everything
Until she finds out that if he tried to go with her into her time, he would die. That the only way she can be with him is for both of them to stay on the Waters forever. That there is no perfect option, no happy ending…and she’s going to have to choose. And that whatever she chooses is going to have hard consequences (either she leaves him behind, or dooms them both to live outside of time forever, away from everything else they love).
But I always intended to use the Amelia Earhart plot to spur Lauren into a decision. It was always the plan to have Lauren (being from the future) be the one who has to tell the famous pilot, “No, you never made it home, but your name has lived on in a powerful way because of that”. If she can convince Earhart to choose her destiny, she’s paved the way to choosing her own.
This chosen fate. The story of a girl who learns that sometimes you can’t always leave your life to chance, that sometimes destiny is in what you choose and not just what happens to you. That sometimes you ARE the hand of destiny. The contradiction and struggle existed in the title of the story itself, all along, and I never saw it.
It’s almost becomes a kind of anti-escapist story, in that sense. But as I have a tendency to romanticize the concept of escapism (hello, fantasy writer here), I think it’s important for me to consider the dangers and pitfalls of fantasy itself. Preserve a certain amount of perspective.
And but well, at least I can untangle and finish this story after I get done with Mask.