Thursday, October 22, 2009

You Reap What You Sow

I strongly believe in sowing and reaping. Some people might believe in karma, some in 'what goes around, comes around.'

The basic principle here is that everything has consequences.

I just loved a recent episode of House because it was about sowing and reaping. Balance, even. The dad sacrificed everything to save his son, and being the wonderful show it is, the son lived. Not only that, but the minor characters have made some choices that are now beginning to bear fruit (and add conflict).

Consequences.

Are you making sure your characters are suffering from their bad choices? Being rewarded for their good ones? It's the little choices at the beginning of the story that should affect the rest of the book. I think these seemingly inconsequential choices should weave together and create the plot.

What do you think about sowing and reaping? Is your MC making good choices or bad ones, and how does that affect your character's moral arc?

35 comments:

Tabitha Bird said...

Ooh, all good questions. I too believe in sowing and reaping or 'ya get what's comin' :)

Books that don't pay the consequences to the MC are often difficult for me to keep reading. Fairyland is for fairy tales, when I read I want to see them get what's coming or at at least a good reason why they didn't. Cause I also believe in grace.

Stephanie Faris said...

I think I saw part of that episode of House. I couldn't figure out what was going on because everyone kept interrupting me so I watched most of it on mute!

Jessica said...

LOL Stephanie, it's worth it to rewatch. Some great undercurrents, I thought. :-)

Hi Tabitha,
I'm an avid romance reader, so I'm used to most things tied up by the end of the book, but I still like their to be realistic reactions and consequences. You know?

Janna Qualman said...

You're so smart with all your tips! I'm going to have to look closely at my WIP for this stuff. Thanks for the reminder, Jessica.

Candi said...

Jessica,

I think you are so on the mark here. I read a story recently where the chars made some bad choices (in their own views) and in the end, they grew because of the consequences of their actions. Thing was, there was so much more going on, but these little choices had a huge impact on how they developed and learned. It carried the story so well, and made them SO human that I was invested in them from the start.

Whatever you call it - there's always a reaction for every action and any story missing that will miss the human nature element.

Great post!

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Whether in life or story, choices are important.

I could write a bunch of stories about my personal life and the bad choices I've made and the results. Sometimes I stick my MC with the same situations and see what happens.

And then again, there are good choices that result in rewards. Choosing what my MC will receive for making good choices is always fun. I like for them to receive the unexpected!

Tamika: said...

You have raised some wonderful points, and given me a lot to ponder.

One of my characters especially needs more accountability.

Thanks for the reminder for me and my characters.

Linda Kage said...

I'm going to have to think about this one because it's such a great question and would be good for any story I write.

Thanks for giving me a reason for deep introspection.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Definitely. One thing I tried to do is study the motivations of the character. Maybe he/she did something wrong, but did it with good intentions--then what? It's a lot of fun!

Jaymie said...

Jessica - I love the idea of sowing and reaping, too, but never thought of it in relationship to characters and story. Great connection!

Beth said...

My main character makes most of the good choices, and her sister makes most of the bad. How's that for dynamic? :P Hopefully, it will bring some good drama!

Deb Shucka said...

I loved the resolution to that episode of House, and watch with great interest the unfolding consequences of the unethical, wrong yet so right choice of the previous episodes.

As always, a really thought-provoking post.

Genny said...

I believe in sowing and reaping too. And I think it's just a good way to live--being aware of what you are putting out into the world. :)

Kara said...

Oh these are great questions! I'm a firn believer and reaping and sowing...all in good time I say!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

I loved that episode too, and the next one. Chase is so in for a battle!

I love reading books that reveal the consequences, but also show how a different perspective can still get you through them with faith at your side. They may not get their ideal, but they make the most of what they do get from their mistakes.

ElanaJ said...

I do make sure my characters get a consequence from their choices. In fact, my whole book is about choices and what comes from them. Good, bad or whatever. I think this is important in writing, but as I've recently learned, not everyone feels the way I do. I still write it in my stuff though. :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

My current MC was a good guy, big help to the MC's in Book 1. Now, they are helping him.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Julie Dao said...

I absolutely believe this too. What comes around goes around and sometimes the smallest choices and decisions have the biggest impacts in the end. I'll definitely be thinking about this for my characters. Thanks for the thoughtful post!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Love this thought...the idea that little choices can create a richer conflict. Thanks!

Erica Vetsch said...

Excellent thoughts! I'm just beginning a new novel, and I need to be asking myself these questions as I go along.

Ava Walker Jenkins said...

House is one of our favorite shows and the characters are so rich and ocmplicated. The Dad in that episode was absolutely certain he was doing the right thing and remained true to his inner voice, even though his advisors were begging him to reconsider. His faith and follow-through made him happy when money couldn't. Great post!

Warren Baldwin said...

What a man sows that shall he also reap. That is a biblical principle. I think building consequences into the story line does two important things. One, it makes the characters and the story real. Two, it teaches readers a fact of life - actions have results, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

I read recently that we can pick our actions but we can't pick our consequences. Ouch! Every kid needs to hear that!

Good post.

Maria I. Morgan said...

Definitely believe in the law of sowing and reaping. Excellent reminder to include this principle in fictional works. Congrats on being 43% complete on your WIP!!

Angie Muresan said...

My main character can't help being human and flawed. Her only redeeming trait is her desire to do what is right. Sometimes she succeeds, but most often not.

Krista Phillips said...

Love this, Jess! I'm just now realizing this about my characters... I mean they always had consequences, but it was usually because of "others" actions towards them, because of misunderstandings, or just "circumstances."

But I had an epiphany the other day.

My hero can, gulp, sin.

And be made to pay for it.

But be given grace.

As a Christian hero, I think we tend to make them too "good" and try to justify their mistakes in the end. Or at least, that's what I was doing.

It's really given me a whole new angle with which to write with, and I think readers will enjoy getting "real" with the characters too.

Jessica said...

I love reading all of your comments! Thank you. I was so exhausted yesterday that I didn't respond to much, but I appreciate you all. :-)

Irritable Mother said...

Oh, Jessica, I have a character who made some very bad choices this morning, and if it weren't for a homework "pass" I think he would be suffering bigger consequences than he will be facing today.
My struggle is how to carry out the consequences when he gets home - so as to shape his character, without crushing it.
*big sigh*

T. Anne said...

You know, I like the concept presented here. Perhaps along with an outline I should make up a reap and sow list. I'd like to see that in advance! I really need to make my MC more exciting. =)

Jessica said...

Karen, you're so funny! Thank goodness for homework pass, right? Except all it does is delay the lesson we all need. It's like a consequence delayer. *snort* Good luck with the character building. I know how you feel. *double sigh*

T. Anne, are you saying your character is not exciting???? LOL Maybe give her a bad temper, or a temptation to flirt. That's always funny. LOL

Nancy said...

I have read a few books where the main characters make sacrificial choices and are not rewarded until the big fanale at the end of the book. In one, it was a very long series and she waited a long time. That isn't true to life. I know we don't always get rewarded right away or even every time we sacrifice, but "the big finale" type of book where all is bad and then all is right in a whoosh... you can keep those plots. They get on my nerves.

Project Journal said...

Hi Jessica!
You might have seen me in Seekerville, but this is the first time I've visited your blog. I really like it : ) You seem really nice in Seekerville, so I thought I'd stop by. I'm glad I did. I think I'll continue to drop by!

By the way, I noticed on your profile that you like to blog every other day...that's a very good goal! Lol...I find it really hard to update mine(kind of). Maybe I'll go do that now....hmmmm....

: D

Thanks!
Hannah

Jody Hedlund said...

Hi Jessica! I understand the exhaustion thing! Thanks for taking the time to swing by my blog today! Hope all is well on your end of the USA!

Jessica said...

Jody, I'm amazed you popped by, what with everything on your plate. ;-) Thank YOU for taking the time! Everything is good here. :-)

Hi Hannah,
I've seen you too. Isn't your pic The Color Purple? I like that book. Yeah, from what I hear a schedule is a good thing. LOL It's pressing sometimes though.

Hi Nancy! You sound a little irritated just writing about those plots! LOL

Project Journal said...

Lol! Yes, I am The Color Purple : ) I absolutely LOVE that book! I saw the movie last year and fell in love with it first. Literally, I watched it nightly for at least 2 weeks I think and everytime I saw it, I saw something different. Then, I read the book and honestly it's one of my all time favorite books now I think : )

Anyway, yes schedules are very important. I totally know the importance of schedules right now. I'm a senior in high school, so schedule is my middle name! : )
Talk to you later!
Hannah

Jessica said...

Wow, you just saw the movie? But I guess you're younger than me. I think it's great that you're a senior and already thinking about your future and how to get published. :-) Thank you for stopping by!