‘What are you talking about? This isn’t a film.’
‘I know, but I thought….’
‘You’re not one of those writers who thinks are you?’ The protagonist peered out of the page. ‘This,’ he glanced around nervously, ‘isn’t going to be literary is it?’
‘What? No, of course not. Literary? Whatever gave you that idea?’
The protagonist shrugged, then remembered. He checked the safety catch and holstered his pistol. He’s been the protagonist in someone else’s story where a gun had gone off accidentally. 450 pages of being chased through a dense forest, across rivers. Almost getting killed at the end of every chapter, including – literally – one cliffhanger. He wasn’t keen on something like that again. He made a sitting gesture, and the writer described a chair for him to sit on.
He sat carefully. It was only the first draft, so the chair was only perfunctorily described. ‘Why did you say action like that?’
The writer shrugged. ‘I… er….’ He wasn’t good at conversation. That was why he was a writer. ‘I dunno… I read somewhere that-’
‘Hang on, have you been reading those writing craft books again?’
‘I said the last time, when I was in that short story of yours, that you wanted to be careful reading all those books about writing, didn’t I?’
‘No look. I’ve been a character in a fair few stories, some by writers you may even have actually heard of. I know a bit about the trade.’
‘Hmmm, well, I didn’t like to say….’
‘Only I thought you were getting on a bit for an action hero.’ He glanced at the protagonist. ‘Not that there is anything wrong with that. I’m getting on a bit myself.’
The protagonist looked away towards the left margin. He didn’t like to admit it, but these days he was out of breath after a paragraph or two of action scenes – and those were short paragraphs. These days too he was glad when the chapter ended before it went into detail about what he and the female lead did after the obligatory passionate kiss up against the wall in the female lead’s kitchen. The last time he did that, he’d put his back out and got a massive bruise on his thigh from her oven door handle. Sometimes, he found himself longing for the days when he could play the wise old mentor to the protagonist, instead of all this running around. The wading through rivers, battling storms and surviving shipwrecks was starting to play havoc with his rheumatism too. And – sometimes – he couldn’t see the next action scene from more than a page away without his glasses.
He noticed the way the writer was contemplating having a quick glance at his browser. Facebook was open in one of the browser tabs, and he knew this writer still had a thing about that girl from school who was now one of his Facebook friends. He coughed, and the writer returned to his word processor window, looking guilty. ‘Amway, as I said, why action?’
‘Well, I read – in a writer’s blog post – about your characters taking over the story, taking control of it from the writer and, well, I thought….’
The protagonist sighed. ‘Do I have to do everything around here?’ he stood up and strode off back to the start of a new paragraph, waiting – hands on hips – for the writer to catch up to him. ‘Ready?’