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  • Writer's picturePearl Lorentzen

Character intersections

When I started writing, I was working on a fantasy novel with multiple intersecting storylines. In the story, the main characters were from different people groups scattered across the world. At the climax of the story, I wanted all of the characters to meet at a specific location and time.

I knew the details of this climax, but the story wasn't progessing. I was having fun world building, but I couldn't write and my attempts at writing a plot kept coming out flat and dull.

One of my teachers gave me some advice. She told me to stop thinking of the story geographically.

By focusing on getting the characters into the same physical place, I wasn't listening to the story. The geography impeded my ability to understand the characters, their goals and the conflict of the story.

By shifting my focus to characters with goals who make choices in response to challenges, the stories progressed. This style of writing is character driven.

When the focus is on the characters and their stories, most considerations, such as geography, come along for the ride.

I've found research, philosophy, plot, and other considerations have done the same thing. They are fun and integral to the writing process, but I've had to learn when my focus on them is stopping me from understanding the story.

At that point, I put them on a back burner.

Almost every protagonist in a story has to at least meet his or her antagonist once.

The more characters a story has the more intersections are likely to happen. These points of connection between characters are important. Often they are key moments of tension. The build up to them can also build tension.

This tension helps to build the story arch and keep the reader engaged.

Once the first draft is done, any confusing aspects of geography, time, and other practical factors can be fixed in future edits.

While I have only a first and parts of a second draft of this fantasy novel, the advice about geography is always at the back of my mind. It has given me the freedom to let the characters speak for themselves and move the story along.

There are times when I look at the drafts of this novel and other works, that I am surprised by how, why, and when the intersections happen between characters. I prefer this to spending hours stressing about the minute details of a meeting between characters before I have even written a single word.

That being said, some obsessive planning of world building, map making, research, character background, etc. is very fun and useful.

Characters in a story intersect, just like these wires and connectors on a power pole. Photo by Pearl Lorentzen.

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