After a nearly two hour drive to Providence, Rhode Island, and a rushed dinner at an Irish bar, I settled into a theater chair without enough legroom for me to cross my legs. The musicians in the pit struck up the strains to “No One Mourns the Wicked”, and the curtain rose.
This was my fourth time seeing the musical, Wicked. I knew the story and the songs by heart. As I watched the story unfold on stage, I became acutely aware of the actions happening on stage in context with the end of the play. Things were going to get very, very bad for the main character. She made her decisions, and there was no going back from the path she’d chosen.
I hated that for her. It wasn’t fair; she had only good intentions when she set out on her path. But the deck was stacked against her.
Her struggle against the inevitable made her a compelling character. I wanted that for my protagonists. No matter how hard it was at first, I need to put them in bad situations. They need to make a decision from which there is no return. Perhaps they even need to become the bad guy for a while, at least in the minds of other characters.
As the final notes of “For Good” echoed in the theater and the curtain fell, I knew that this performance had changed me for the better. I might write myself and my characters into a corner occasionally. However some of those risks would pay off. And my writing would be changed for good.