Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Fiction of Zimmerman's Story

When you write fiction you have to have believability. You have to have people believe that your character is capable of the actions you have described. Your editor is shaking her head because she just read your story that is about an African American walking in a gated community in Florida. And he is being pursued by this guy in an SUV who has a gun. Your character is scared and talking to his girlfriend on his cellphone telling her that this dude is following him and he is trying to get away. Just run the girlfriend says. Your character has a pack of skittles and an iced tea and is wearing a hoodie. But your guy with the gun  is closing in.

Now your man in the SUV who has a nine millimeter on his hip in a holster is talking to the police. They tell him don't pursue your guy but you want to keep the action going so you have him get out of his truck and mutter, "they always get away." Now you have established a motive for him to pursue your black teenager who is still trying to get away, heart pounding, holding his iced tea and Skittles. Now your guy in the SUV is running after him and he calls out and your character stops trying to get away.

Here is where your editor puts down your fiction. I just don't get it. What? You have this kid who is scared to death running from this guy. Yeah so? But then you have him turn and assault the guy in the SUV and punch him and jump on top of him and slam his head against the sidewalk. Yeah so? Your guy in the SUV has a gun! He has a nine millimeter on his hip! Your character has a pack of Skittles and an iced tea, he would never turn and fight a man with a gun. It just wouldnt happen. You stare at your editor. Maybe my character is a bad ass you point out. Your editor demures. Even the worst gang banger in the world wouldn't take on a man with a gun if he doesn't have one. 

So you rethink your story. Hmmm... How about I tell it from the view point the guy in the SUV? Your editor shakes her head. Oh, so now you want to tell it from the viewpoint of a man hunting a young un armed African American with a gun and an SUV?  She shakes her head. Who in the world would empathize with someone like that?


Books by William Hazelgrove