Oct 25 2010

Lifesaving Intervention

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Maybe my title is a little overly dramatic, but not to the little lizard I saved from certain death during my morning jog along the railroad tracks.

This lizard, an adult version, posed on our rock wall. The baby I rescued was not even the length of the adult's tail. Click to enlarge.

It was one of those moments when I just happened to look down and saw a tiny baby lizard being attacked by three red ants. He was so small, I’m sure he didn’t know what was happening as he was being bitten.

Instinctively, I reached down and picked him up (which, to my surprise, he let me). In so doing, I dislodged the nasty ants, and the little guy went along his way.

For Writers: My intervening role made me think about the authorial intervention we take with our characters and how doing so can dramatically change a story’s outcome. Do you let your characters speak for themselves and lead you through the story? Or do you intervene, reeling them in so that you can keep them on the path you’ve pre-selected? Or do you do a little of both? What seems to work best for you, personally?

In my first novel, I tried to keep them on their ‘path,’ but loosened the grip toward the end. I think that approach – for me, at least – led to a much more organic and realistic feel. On my current novel, I’m getting to “know” my characters very well upfront. I’m planning to trust them to lead me along the way, though I have a “general” path I’m expecting them to follow. Whether they comply remains to be seen!

5 Responses to “Lifesaving Intervention”

  • Rachna Chhabria Says:

    Melissa, you are a brave lady. I would never lift a lizard, not even the tiniest one. But its good you saved the little guy from the dreadful red ants.

    As for my characters, I do a little of both. Sometimes they drag me in the direction they want to go, sometimes I gently nudge them in the pre-determined path. As I get to know my characters better, I give them freedom, but at the back of my mind I am aware that I can always withdraw that freedom and make them do what I want.


  • Sharon Bially Says:

    Wow. And at the same time, what a treat to get a glimpse through you of the amazing desert. I can feel it pulling me in from all the way over in damp, chilly Boston.

    Funny, but your post made me think of the differences between raising characters and…raising kids. Big difference: with characters, you actually CAN control the outcome of your interventions to some extent. Thanks for the reminder.


  • Melissa Says:

    Rachna – I think it’s great to give your characters the freedom to “talk to you.” But is is nice, isn’t it, to know you have ultimate control. Hmm.. would be nice if it worked that way in real life!

    Sharon- Thanks for stopping by. I’m obviously totally in love with the desert :-). Glad you can see some of it through my eyes. Yes, yes … big difference b/w raising kids and characters. Great parallel. Too bad you can’t control the outcome with children, though …


  • Bryan Says:

    Good work! Too bad you weren’t there to save my feet from ants while watering the lawn yesterday, haha. Lizards get all the sympathy.


    Melissa Reply:

    Ick! I know how badly that hurts the tootsies. Do you happen to know what kind of lizard this guy is? They are prolific on our property.


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