Daily Archives: June 22, 2011

Writing Life: It’s Okay to Take the Stairs

I have a beef with elevators.  Ever since I got stuck in one with my AFJROTC group in a museum in Washington, DC, my relationship with elevators has been love/hate.  On the one hand, you can get to the 15th floor with your legs in tact, without sweat stains, and without your lungs begging you never to put them through that again.  On the other… I got stuck in an elevator.  I don’t think I can be any more clear on that.  Elevators are mechanical, they lurch, and whirr, and when you step off of them, you have this weird, weak-legged feeling.

You’re thinking:  “This is a writing blog, Kit, what’s your point?”

My point is: It’s okay to take the stairs.  The scenic route, the back roads, the winding paths that take you away from the mechanical “gets-you-from-a-to-b” elevators and freeways of writing.

In an elevator, it takes you from the ground floor, to the fifteenth floor.  It doesn’t matter how you’re getting there.  You don’t question what might be on the floors in between…. but those floors between the ground and fifteenth floor are a necessary part of the building’s structure.  They house the elevator shaft that pulls you “from a-to-b.”

There's your destination... don't you care what's between here and there? What if there's a floor housing zombies? Or unicorns?

In your story, the journey is half the fun.  Each leg of your character’s journey should be essential to the plot, like each floor is essential to the building.  The stairs let you peek through doors, explore different floors, give your character the strength and personal growth to be ready for whatever the fifteenth floor holds.  Would you deny him the experience by sticking him in an elevator, passing all kinds of fun things the other floors may contain?  MAYBE HIS DEAD WIFE IS ON THE FIFTH FLOOR!  He’d want to know that, right?  Poor guy.  He really loved her, now he’ll never know, and never grow through his grief.

Let him wonder what's around the next bend... Also, the climb will be great for his thighs.

I got a little off track, I think.  What I’m trying to say is, taking your character from A-to-B is great.  You want him to get there, but not without the trials and tribulations of pulling himself up a long flight of stairs.  Stairs give him doors, which give him choices, which lead to growth, and that growth will give him the means of defeating his greatest obstacle: whatever lies on the fifteenth floor.

So, to recap:

  • Trials and tribulations are important.
  • Sticking your hero on the fifteenth floor from the first will only get him killed.
  • Reading about a character who hasn’t had the time or pain to grow and overcome is a character too boring to invest time in.
  • Stairs are good for the thighs.

Are you pro-stairs or pro-elevator?  What’s your favorite part of your protagonist’s journey?

Flickr photo: Elevator Buttons © iseethelight

Flickr photo: Stairs © Caucas

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