I was listening to a song I love this week. (“I Think Never Is Enough” by the Bare Naked Ladies).
In it, the protagonist is proudly telling us how he followed his own dreams rather than blindly going to college or backpacking through Europe or working in retail, like everyone else he knew (“I never worked a single day in retail/Telling people what they wanna hear/ Telling people anything to make a sale./ Eating in the food court/ With the old and the bored…”). I love it and want to play it to my nieces and nephew, my sons, everyone in their teens. I love his in-your-face arrogance. And then I started to wonder if the band ever performs this song now, and if, 20 years on, they’re ever faintly embarrassed by that arrogance. Even though it’s one of the things I love about the song…
And that got me thinking: one of the best things about being a writer is having an outlet for all those times you want to rant and rave unreasonably but can’t because you’re too damned polite.
- Let them be as heroic/funny/romantic/angry/mean/bitter/vindictive as you like.
- Don’t worry about making them rounded. This is a short story not a novel. You can give them one line where they move a cat out of harm’s way before nuking the city, to let us know there’s more in there than the pure character we’re seeing in this moment. This isn’t a novel. We don’t need to see much more than that.
- Think of an issue that’s liable to set you off on a rant (it could be anything from a hole in your sock to the hole in the ozone layer, from apostrophes to healthcare, from sport to cell phone use) and think of a character who shares your position on that thing (or opposes it) to the extreme. Put him/her in a situation that’s going to get him riled up and start the story just after that has happened.
- Don’t back off. Let them say all the things you never would. Remember, you don’t have to show this to anyone if you don’t want to (but I bet you’ll want to).