This Sunday, I took part in Generation Z, which is an interactive theatre experience… with zombies. As much as the blood-spatter and screaming was fun, the thing I noticed most about the experience was the choice.
Generation Z was the kind of theatre show that let you choose what happened to you. You’re all in one group, in the same room, and then you have to run. Somewhere, anywhere. You choose: left or right down the corridor. Which direction you choose takes you to a different part of the abandoned warehouse, and a different plot. I chose left, and ended up in a Mess Hall. I chose to stand in the middle of the group, which was great because it meant I didn’t get sprayed with blood, but bad because it meant I was soon separated from my partner when the groups had to divide again.
Every person in the Generation Z group had a different experience, made entirely from their own choices. The people that turned right when I turned left went to a different plot; the woman who stood in front of me instead of behind got absolutely soaked in fake blood. Every choice has a consequence.
Here’s one for the writers.
Take any character from your novel. At some point, they will have had to make a decision. Did they choose between fight or flight? Did they choose not to say something they were thinking? Did they choose to catch an earlier train, or say hello to a stranger, or ignore that red traffic light?
This writing exercise is about choice.
- Take a character (preferably a main or an important secondary character).
- Write down the choices they make during your novel.
- Change the first choice to the opposite. What happens? What is different?
- Continue down the list until either a) you finish the list or b) the remaining choices are irrelevant or wouldn’t happen anymore.
The idea of this writing exercise is to understand your character, your plot, what connects them and why they make the choices they do. At the end of the exercise, you should find that your character (at some point) drives your plot.
If they do not, and their choices are completely inconsequential (or they make no choices in the first place), you might want to have a look again at your Character’s Agency (scroll to the bottom for questions).
Your character and your plot should be intricately linked. It’s up to you to find out how and why.