Characters who take action are better at driving the plot than characters to whom things happen.
Ellis drew down the blinds, and opened the drawer. A hairy mass of bitter verbiage rose up behind his lips. There were only three energy stims tucked in the back of the top-most desk drawer.
He swore in his mind as he stared at the three flat sticks. Wish Leope would return; stims were hard to come by for a man like Ellis, especially when business was slow.
He slammed the drawer shut, and twisted idly in his chair. Just wait for a case, wait for a case, he reminded himself. His mouth was dry.
Ellis tapped his fingers lightly against his thighs; he had been waiting near the corner of Breask and Qualope Avenue for an hour now. He put his left hand into his shirt pocket, and drew out a half-finished stimulant rod.
Six hours, maybe. Then the shakes would hit him.
His eyes combed the street, and then he pulled his lower lip between his teeth, and strode out from the darkened corner. If he couldn’t find Leope, there were plenty of other dealers down in the slums; he’d check the old man’s loft one more time, and then start fishing for low-lifes.
It can be easy to fall into a pattern of allowing a plot to happen to your main character, instead of writing characters who go out and seize on a plot themselves.
To find out if your characters are volitional, look at the introduction of new scenes and plot elements; do these happenings come to the character, or does the character go forth and lay hold of them?
Strong characters make strong fiction.
Ocher’s Daughter, Third Installment
When Florence had disposed of her heavy trunk with Mrs. Bellows, and paid to keep it tucked securely in that lady’s back room, she went into the sunlit street, her father’s pack on her shoulders, and his purse slung around her body.
Her father’s purse was a thing of wonder; he claimed that the goddess had given to him with her own hands, and sent him on a quest to master his soul. The purse, when filled with dirt or sand, transformed the earth into bread. Ocher had often told Florence strange stories of his adventures in the wild places; she did not believe his extravagant tales, but she could not deny the power of the purse, which she had eaten from herself on more than one occasion.
“She gave me a stone flask that turned sand to water, but it shattered in the war,” Ocher always said, his eyes growing distant, as if he saw someone far away.
Florence didn’t believe too much in the reality of a goddess; she had never seen proof of such a being herself, but her father had come from the deep southern lands, where such things were regarded as historical fact, and she had kept her doubts to herself when her father had been alive.
She carried the purse and her pack to the edge of the village, and sat down to wait for Vince and Jim. A slim hope surged in her heart; maybe Vince would give Jim the slip, and come to run away with her on his own. This possibility was an unlikely one; Vince was the sort of young man who stuck to his friends steadfastly. Now I will be one of his friends, Florence thought, and she put her lower lip between her teeth, and ran her tongue along the tender flesh.
I’m going to make Vince fall in love with me, she reflected, and a surreptitious smile crept over her mouth. She had been thinking for some time of introducing herself to Vince, and ingratiating herself to him, but her father had been dying, and then she had been occupied for some time in disposing of the house and the meadows behind. The business had concluded some days past, but her friends who had purchased the land were finishing their own harvest, and Florence had found herself in that peculiar state of waiting that accompanies such affairs.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of monster hunting myself, she reflected, and the figures of Jim and Vince appeared at the end of the village track. Florence sat up straighter, and put a nervous hand on her father’s purse. I hope he likes me as much as I like him, she thought, and her eyes danced lightly over the heavy shock of hair that fell over Vince’s brow, and the solid shape of his biceps. A buzz of excitement thrummed under Florence’s collarbone; Vince was not looking at her yet.