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I’m the protagonist … in a carnival scene

January 27, 2010

(I’m in the middle of leaking my slightly blown mind on the interwebs. It started here, and got more interesting here.)

Feeling like my eyes were open a little wider than usual for a couple weeks, I grabbed Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl off the shelf to re-read. Wilson agrees with me, and he writes this metaphor much better than I do. And now, don’t worry, you are the main character,

“Step outside your front door and look at today’s stage. Speak. God will reply. … He will parade His art. He will give you a scene, a setting for the day. He will give you conflict to overcome, opportunities for your character to grow or fail.”

If inspiration doesn’t work, he aims a couple pages later to provoke,

“Who are you? What kind of novel are you in? What is the conflict? If you were reading a story, watching an omniscient (really) narrator describe you, your innermost thoughts, your insecurities, and all your desires, would you have any trouble at all giving your character counsel? Would it be oh-so-difficult to tell when that character was motivated from selfishness or pride? Would you love to see that story written? …

“… Trot out your thoughts, every last one, no matter how tiny, no matter how fleeting, no matter how awful or pornographic. Project them on a screen for the viewing public. We’d have you pegged in a heartbeat – just as you’d be able to peg us … Are you a whining fusser? Do you complain about the weather? …

“We are always on stage. We are always in a novel, and even when no other characters are around, the art continues. The Triune audience watches.”

It’s easy to be a good extra, a positive turn in someone’s story. You only have a minute in the scene, and all you really have to do is smile or let someone in traffic ahead of you or be patient and gracious with the waitress who messes up your lunch. When no one else is around, it’s harder to be a good protagonist.

The day I re-read this bit of Notes, I dropped the vacuum cleaner bag I was changing and dumped much of it on the floor I had just vacuumed. I felt my jaw clench and suddenly remembered the stage. “Am I,” I wondered, “the character who gets upset over the little things, or am I the character who can laugh at herself, and at irony, and get on with the day?”

Which one are you?

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 20, 2010 6:35 am

    there is an opportunity to win a free copy of “Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl”, among 3 other great titles, at

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