Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Choice Not Chance

“It's choice - not chance - that determines your destiny." --Jean Nidetch

We all make choices. Some are conscious, others automatic. What is most frustrating, I think, is our inability to perceive how each decision affects the outcome of our lives. We blame other people or outer circumstances, not realizing (much less acknowledging) how our own decisions led us to whatever path we’re currently stumbling down.

With writing, the choices seem easy. Before faced with the daunting prospect of piecing together a plot, the initial idea of writing a novel appears simple. Like… baking a yummy dessert. Choose your ingredients, give ‘em a stir, and pour the batter in the pan. Piece of cake! *grin* Yet what I discovered when I began to experiment with fiction writing is much more complex.

The choices I make impact my life. The choices my characters make are just as significant.

Unless you grasp how compelling each choice is, in fiction as well as in life, your story will seem haphazard. We can ignore our own decisions and go along with the happy illusion that the consequences we face are bad luck, karma, or a nefarious conspiracy by those who seek to undermine us for reasons beyond our ken (the World Is Out To Get Us syndrome). Yet that won’t fly in fiction. Darn it.

We can avoid self-responsibility in many areas of life, except when writing a novel. Grrrrr. *smile*

How many times have you witnessed a friend or co-worker lament about some personal grievance for which they blamed everyone but their own actions, while you hid your reaction and privately thought “Well, what did you expect?”


In a novel, that person doing the inner “Duh!” is your reader. And it’s an intricate balancing act because your protagonist has only so much leeway before the reader gets disgusted and believes s/he is too dumb for words. Of course, we may think that privately about the people in Real Life shooting themselves in the foot. *grin* The difference is that the novel can be tossed away and most often, the person griping about their constant headaches (while banging themselves repeatedly on the noggin) often must simply be tolerated.

"The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense." –Tom Clancy.

Let’s all give a nod to the choices we make and strive to recognize the impact those decisions have on our life. Fiction isn’t the only thing that has to make sense!

--Chiron O’Keefe

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