Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Musing on Sunday: Making Difficult Choices

with 6 comments

It’s Sunday, so I thought I’d try a different type of post today.

What do we do, as writers, and as people, when we have to make a difficult choice?

In our writing, sometimes we have snippets of dialogue and characterization that leap off the page, but don’t go with anything in the story. What do we do with it, then?

And in life, we never seem to get exactly what we want. The people around us — and we, ourselves, for that matter — make bad decisions from time to time. Or maybe they make good decisions for them, but bad ones for us…because they’re human, and they make mistakes. (Just as we do, but I digress.)

In writing, it’s easier to figure out what you’re going to do with a difficult decision. First, you can turn that snappy dialogue or great characterization into a new story that doesn’t conflict with the one you already have. Second, if that doesn’t work, you can simply excise it — the whole “kill your darlings” thing that all writers know, and all writers hate. And third, you can try to find a way to incorporate the good stuff into your manuscript anyway…though that last is the most difficult choice of all, as if it had been easy, that bit that stands out but doesn’t go with anything would’ve been incorporated already.

Note I said “easier.” It’s still not easy. You have to think, long and hard, about what you’re going to do, and make a choice that you have to live with.

In life, sometimes we can only react to what is put in front of us. Where we are today might not be at all where we want to be. (I think I can safely say that, under the circumstances; if I had my druthers, my husband would still be alive, we’d be about to celebrate fifteen years of marriage, and we’d have I don’t know how many books out, together and separately.) Because we’re in uncharted territory, we don’t know what to do, and we feel our way toward the best solution possible.

We have to have faith in ourselves that we can find a good answer, even when the question itself seems like it has no answer. We have to believe that we can reason our way out, think our way out, know ourselves well enough that we can stay on an even keel while everything around us feels unsteady, almost as if we’re enduring a long-lasting earthquake that doesn’t quite — quite — swallow us whole.

This is hard.

It’s especially difficult for our friends, who watch as we struggle, and give advice, and give comfort and support, and try to do their best to help you keep your body and soul together another day, so you can continue the fight.

But ultimately, the choices you make are up to you. You have to live with them.

So please, make your best decisions. Use your reason as well as your gut reaction. And then act accordingly…knowing full well that you can revisit your decision if and when the situation changes.

What do you do when you face a difficult choice, in writing or in life? Let me know in the comments.

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Written by Barb Caffrey

March 12, 2017 at 4:21 pm

6 Responses

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  1. This is sage and sound advice.
    Whereas you can plan your story (although I tend to give into my characters running away with things); in Life we have to face up to the fact that we often have to react to an unwanted circumstance set upon us that we can only weather and keeping our intact throughout

    Woebegone but Hopeful

    March 13, 2017 at 9:53 am

    • Yeah. That’s all we can do.

      And yes, our characters usually do run away with the story. We can only plan a little, if we’re doing it right…but then again, I’m more of a pantser than a plotter (though I’m kind of half and half, really).

      Thanks, Roger. Glad you enjoyed the post.

      Barb Caffrey

      March 13, 2017 at 5:44 pm

      • Pantser, that’s me. I tend to start out with characters and build something around them

        Woebegone but Hopeful

        March 14, 2017 at 2:53 am

      • I think it’s easier that way, myself. I’d rather have characters figuring what the story is than a story without characters, ’cause the latter is boring and the former can be fixed. 🙂

        Barb Caffrey

        March 15, 2017 at 5:34 pm

      • I agree all the way.đź‘Ź Characters seem more alive don’t they? 🙂

        Woebegone but Hopeful

        March 16, 2017 at 3:03 am

      • Absolutely.

        Barb Caffrey

        March 16, 2017 at 6:32 pm


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