From the book Emotional Structure – Creating the Story Beneath the Plot by Peter Dunne
The mentor represents the protagonist’s highest aspirations.
He personifies the kind of moral person the protagonist wishes he could be and mirrors the protagonist’s spiritual center. While the mentor is allowed to give the protagonist all the encouragement in the world, he isn’t allowed to give him any answers. And the reason is simple. The mentor’s answers are HIS answers. The protagonist has to find his own.
Learning how to find the answers is the lesson being taught.
I worked late, again, which meant I was driving home later than usual, which means traffic. While I drove I let my mind wander, knowing that I needed some good thinking time to figure out what is going on with MTLB (my WIP). I’m trying to figure out where a good thinking place would be because other than the drives through the backroads on the way to Santa Cruz, I’m fresh out of thinking spots. The doctor told me no walking the dog until my knee heals. I don’t think my husband, as supportive as he is, would agree to just drive back and forth through the woods for a few hours every night so I could think. But this book is new. It needs lots of thinking time. Traffic got worse. Cars slowed down. Slower still. I inched along waiting to merge into the metering lane which would merge into another metering lane and then it happened. One idea popped into my head. Then another. I couldn’t reach for a pen, not in that traffic. I couldn’t reach my phone to call home and leave a message for myself (yes, I do this sometimes if I’m afraid I might forget). So I started repeating the few lines to myself over and over again, like I wanted to remember them for a play. I didn’t want to forget a single word.
Frankie (my MC) tells me this is VERY IMPORTANT STUFF. I mutter to myself. I merge. I keep muttering. Merge again. Add a couple more sentences. Mutter louder. Harder to remember them all now. I never was any good in drama class. 4 lane freeway, at last. I drive faster. Frankie talks faster, like he’s afraid he won’t have enough time to get it all out. I accidentally hit my horn and tick off the guy in the white truck next to me. My heart is beating like crazy so I know this is good. I can’t wait to get home and write. I can see the entire scene unfolding and Frankie is screaming “no no no” in my ear. I miss my turnoff so I have to get off at the next exit and make a U-turn. Frankie is still yammering at me but I don’t want to tell him to slow down because he might run away again. He does that a lot. Finally I pull into the driveway and shoo the squirrels out of my way as I race into the house, throw open the back door for the dog and grab a pen and my tablet.
As fast as I can I write it all down. Every single word. I reread it once then twice. Suddenly I’m the one screaming “no no no” in my own head because Frankie is nowhere around and he left out a few important pieces of information.
Was it the little girl or the dog?
Each time I start a new book I am a bit amazed that, a) I ever completed one in the first place and b) that I will ever be able to do it again. Before I pick the next project I dance around my ideas for days, weeks (okay months) and I worry because a character isn’t talking to me or I don’t know what will happen next or I don’t even know how to start. That’s where I am now. I know the form is another middle grade verse novel. I have a character but he keeps things locked up inside of himself pretty well. I don’t blame him. He hasn’t had an easy time of it lately. I did some research about some of the things I think the book will deal with, waiting for ideas to surface but mostly what I know now is what not to use. So I am drifting in that in-between time being obsessed with the story and not-knowing what to write. And then I remembered that in the beginning I really AM in charge and I can give things to my characters, give things to the story. They might throw them out later but that’s okay. As the author it’s my duty to give the first gift. If the gift is rejected, the character will usually offer something to me in exchange. And so it begins.