Reply To: Exercise 9

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Hi, Joanna

So… Justyna sacrifices her American dream to maintain a principled view on marriage – that it is meaningful. with both spouses in love. If I have this right… Does it work?

A lot depends on how this would be written. I have some questions. Some may be tough, but I hope they are helpful.

If Justyna has come to appreciate true love, why doesn’t she declare it to Jay?

Will readers dislike her for saying goodbye in a note instead of in person? Will they think she is cowardly?

If she loves Jay and understands what love is, why does she lie to him?

Does it make sense that she values the abstract idea of love so much that she gives up on staying in the US, but does see or appreciate the tangible instance (Jay) enough to take a step toward that love? Will this be clear to readers?

If she has changed, why does she still lean on the crutch of deception? Is she still an unreconstructed liar at the end?

On the bullet points:

Justyna sacrifices her American dream to maintain a principled view on marriage – that it is meaningful. with both spouses in love.

Credibility — With lessons learned (and earned) along the way about love and commitment, it probably will work. The biggest concern is the clarity. The abstract concept overcoming the tangible (Jay) may make rational sense, but it will be hard to successfully convey to readers.

Emotional — Justyna is likely to suffer. My guess is she is not elated at doing the right thing. She might be once Jay rescues her at the airport, if that’s what happens. There is a problem of agency (see below).

Daunting — This does not appear to be present here. It’s not always needed.

Tangible — The growth (appreciating love) is manifest is a tangible loss, not gain. She loses Jay, but does not gain him (as far as I can tell) because it does not seem like her sacrificing him creates a happy ending (being with him). If the letter to him states she loves him, but can’t marry him because he doesn’t love her, this might be finessed. But a letter is distanced. A written document within a written book. That takes it further from readers’ real world.

Necessary — OK. If her growth is giving up a bad notion of marriage, and sacrificing a false marriage to Jay kills a dream of enough money and independence (which a false marriage would have brought) for integrity (holding to a principle), this makes sense. Concerns are around her integrity, which seems shaky at best (lying to Jay, not talking to him directly) and the difficulty of making real marriage fake marriage calculations at the end. I think this might be made to work with brilliant writing.

Connected — Her external goal is forsaken. The internal goal’s achievement (accepting a true understanding of marriage) is the reason. So this appears to work on paper.

Wrenching — This probably comes down to the moment. If an earlier Justyna would have accepted the faux marriage (probably true) and lessons have been learned…. but readers have a doubt her commitment… maybe this works. It probably would need to happen with an immediate threat of ICE hanging over her head. If she still has much room to maneuver, if she has time or options, the letting go of the faux marriage idea may seem too easy, not wrenching.

Dependent on Agency — It looks like Jay shows agency to bring about the happy ending, not Justyna. And I don’t know if his rescuing her shows any growth in him since I don’t know him very well.

On analysis, it is a skill worth developing. You might try working on it with stories that don’t pull you it. Once it becomes a habit, it will be easier to do with favorite stories (including you own). Analysis is the backbone of revision.

I got pulled into Shawshank, too. That happens to me with a lot of scripts the first time through, and I don’t let it bother me. I do make an extra effort, with a pencil in hand, the second time through.

Although I just got a copy of the book, the Bosch story for me was from the TV series.



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