Character Arcs

Prompt: Paint

Leep rabbit 2

“The app is called Brushy Pro!,” said Leep. “You need the exclamation mark or it might not come up in Search.”

“You have a unique illustration style,” said Amanda Thirsty, frontline editor for Panhandle Publishing. She was delegated to the newcomers, the first-timers, and the persistent. She had held this particular post for close to a year, and felt it was time she was promoted. There was no editing; just reading and rejecting or reading and sending to actual editors. Her colleague, Donahue Warrenburg, had already moved on and up, and he was hired after she was. It was frustrating. But she tried not to take it out on the writers who sought her advice and acceptance. Sometimes she failed.

Before Leep could bask in her almost-compliment, Amanda added, “I mean unique in the sense of a certain personal quality, which would not necessarily be suitable for a professional publication.”

“I know,” said Leep, who in any case had no high hopes for the illustrations to his book. He was not a professional artist, after all. “But you liked the story itself, right?”

“We…” said Amanda, realizing suddenly that she was sounding like a corporate asshole, “—that is to say, I— liked your book. It was sweet and engaging. The Blue Rabbit is a nice character, but have we seen it before? How many children’s books have a rabbit or other cute animal as the main character?”

“Every story has been told,” said Leep. That’s what the editor before Amanda had said to him, and he remembered. He might not be brilliantly smart, but he remembered things.

“Yes, of course,” said Amanda. “But there seems little fresh material in the story arc, from lonely Blue Rabbit to popular Blue Rabbit.”

“What about the carrot soup? And the rescue?”

“In some ways these details will be distracting for three to five year olds, which is your market, am I correct?”

“Yes,” said Leep. That’s what Mr Warrenburg suggested to me, based on what he read.”

Amanda heard the petulance in Leep’s voice, and sympathized. She saw that Leep was a regular submitter of manuscripts, none of which had made it past a lowly, initial reader like Amanda. She was his third contact at Panhandle, and who knows where else he shopped his books around?

“Here’s the thing, Leep,” said Amanda, leaning forward. “The Blue Rabbit goes from sad to happy, but there is no clear reason for it. The incidents that made others more friendly to him had nothing to do with his actions. We need the Blue Rabbit to learn something, we need to see what changes occurred within him. Not just the same character, who is unhappy, then some random stuff occurs, and then he is happy. Do you understand?”

“Well…” said Leep.

“You may think that children’s stories need less attention,” said Amanda.

“No,” said Leep. “Just that I don’t know how to write that way.” He felt a great heaviness in his heart. He feared losing the dream of publishing a book,  losing the exhilarating feeling of having something that he passionately wanted to do, and feared the empty hole that lost passion would leave.

Amanda saw Leep’s face relax into a kind of deeply sad resignation. “Think of yourself, or your friends,” said Amanda quickly. “Think of a time you, or they, were lonely and unhappy. How did it change?”

“I knew a guy who won 20,000 dollars in a lottery,” Leep said.

“Except for him. Just think about it, Leep. Think about how in a story we need the actions to represent what the character is going through inside.Think about change, what causes it, and what happens.”

Leep was quiet for a moment. He was good at listening and remembering, much better than people thought. He thought he understood what Ms Thirsty meant, and he could spend some time thinking about it. Thinking about his own personal “character arc”, and maybe the arc of Vincent Demarco. “Ok,” he said at last. Amanda Thirsty closed the folder containing his manuscript and illustrations, and pushed it across the desk to him.

“Don’t give up,” she said.

“Ok,” said Leep.

“What was the name of the painting app that you used?”

Brushy Pro!” Leep told her. “With an exclamation point.”