Faster Than Ten Elephants

17 June 2001

One of my friends said something yesterday that stopped me cold. We were talking about one of last/this year's movies we'd both seen, and he said the plotting was good. I asked what movie he'd been watching -- that the character development had been terrible and the time sense nonexistent. And he said, "Plot isn't character development."

And my brain said, "Holy crap, it's not?" So I thought about it for awhile. Plot isn't character development? How can this be? I mean, plot isn't just character development, external events also come into it, but if the character development is bad, the plot just doesn't work. It can't.

So yeah, I think he's wrong. If you have inconsistent character development, how is the plot supposed to make sense to anybody? Take any two of your closest friends. Take an event in your life. Chances are slim to nil that those two people will respond to the event in the same way, in the particulars -- and fiction, whether it's written or filmed, has to show particulars. "They were happy for me" is a terrible way to describe a situation, fictionally, although conversationally it may do well enough to tell your mom what your friends said, if she doesn't have high standards for a story. (Mine does.) One friend will shriek in delight. Another will say nothing, but a broad smile will slowly spread on his face. There is a difference.

So if the character development has gone awry, if it's inconsistent, the audience doesn't know whether the shriek is fake, whether the smile is too understated; the audience doesn't know what the gestures that are supposed to show what's going on are supposed to mean. The plot can't make any sense if we don't have a sense of characters. Of course there will be outside events affecting what they do, but their actions and reactions are vital.

On a less writerly note, Michelle and Scott (The Other Scott, in case you keep track of the Scotts in my life) are coming in less than a week! A week from right now I won't be able to play music while I write and read the paper, because there will be a sleepy little person blinking at me from the couch. Woohoo! Of course, this does mean I may be driving myself a little nuts trying to make everything perfect this week. And I would really, really appreciate it if a reader in the Bay Area sent me some vegetarian restaurant recommendations. La Michelle is really committed to the idea of going to an exclusively vegetarian restaurant, and, well, gosh, this is the Bay Area. We should be able to accommodate her. (We should be able to buy pretentious cheeses, granola, and dried black beans at the grocery store, though. We should be able to find a good coffee house within a few miles of our apartment. We should be able to do a lot of things. Instead, we can take the train everywhere, which is good compensation.) So -- help! If you're a vegetarian or merely eat like one, tell me where you go! Mary Anne, David, and Susan had some anti-recommendations and a really expensive recommendation yesterday; if you can add to the list, let me know. Please. Soon.

If worse comes to worse, we'll just have to make sure that our day in Santa Cruz, should we have one, includes wossitsname. The vegetarian place with the soup. ("Oh, yeah, the one with the soup! Most vegetarian places shun soup!") There are other good places to eat in Santa Cruz (curse you, Tim, for taking all the good stuff for yourself!), but we'll do what's important to La Petite this week.

There are many things to like about Susan and Mary Anne, but one of them is: I don't have to feel like the conversation is solely my responsibility to carry. Someone else will pick up a topic if I don't have one ready. Not that that happens very often, but still.

In other news (we're back to writing again), I'm plowing through Heather's copy of Sabriel and my own brand-new (free!) copy of Lirael, getting ready to do my Garth Nix interview. My brain labeled Sabriel as clearly a boy-name (don't ask me why), so that's been an adjustment. But I've been enjoying them otherwise. And I'm thinking I'm going to reread Fortress and make sure it's as I want it, and then send it back to Diana. Tomorrow. It'll be good. I hope. We'll find out, I suppose. I'll let you know, probably more than you want to. Oh yes, and Reprogramming looks like a few weeks of mad typing to me before it gets finished in draft form, which is a good stage. Curiously, I've written the beginning first and the ending last this time. For the most part. I never did that before. I hope not to do it again. It's just not as cool. But it does make the last bit really look like a "home stretch."

I do have the last scene written, of course, because the minute I get a last scene for a book, I write it down, quickly, before it goes away. I have no idea how to end a book. None. I've done it twice now -- three times, if you count the ending of Reprogramming -- but I still have no clue. I'll probably be fifty and still have no clue, still be scribbling frantically so that I manage to have one. I don't know why this seems so scary to me. It's not like I'm going to be stuck with a book that trails off in mid-sentence otherwise.

So. Um. Happy Father's Day. My dad is cool. My grandpa is cool. My great-uncles (especially the ones called Phil and Rudy) are cool. My godfathers are cool. Yep yep. Lots o' cool. But especially my dad. He planned poorly, though, being born so close to Father's Day. Means that he gets all of his presents at once, with a big long stretch between June and Christmas. Ah well. He seems to deal.

My dad, as I said, is cool. But I'm going to try very hard not to spend most of this journal (or even this entry) bragging on him. Because I'd never stop. Just a few weeks ago, Liz and I discovered that our fathers were in similar fields and started bragging on our dads to each other. The Wiley girls and I used to have more overt contests: "My daddy can push faster than your daddy!" (On the merry-go-round. What else is important, really?) "Nuh-uh! My daddy can push faster than an elephant!" (I'm not sure why elephants and not, say, racehorses were the merry-go-round standard.) "Well, my daddy can push faster than ten elephants!" "Nuh-uh!" "Yuh-huh!"

Well, he can.

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