I’m a bit of a Pinterest addict.
Besides there being a TON of great boards to follow with writing prompts, advice, publishing ideas, avenues for creativity, etc, I just REALLY like to decorate, bake, create, design, and dream about doing all of those things.
So when I stumbled upon this quote this evening, I knew there would be a blog post about it. Because it just SCREAMS a need to be discussed.
As soon as I read this, it immediately brought Shakespeare to mind. Even as a young teenager I loved his work, especially Macbeth. I could read that over and over and over. Shakespeare was a genius, no doubt about it, and the foreshadowing of the three witches at the beginning just echoes a good story, and lots of doom and gloom.
If a story was written with me as the main character, nobody would EVER read it. I’m such a boring, old-at-heart, stodgy curmudgeon, who would rather spend time alone than with other people (most of the time).
So, of course, my characters are nothing like me. Who’d want to read a book about someone who stays home after work, reads and writes incessantly, and doesn’t like to socialize?
Unless that book is a memoir of a great writer, I know I’D never read it. Because reading is an escape for me (and most of us). It lets us live in the characters that we would not normally be, and allows us to become someone new.
Writing trouble for our characters can be just as fun as it can be exhausting. I know a lot of writers say “Well, I just watch and listen to what they do and write that down.”
Yes. Okay. I do that, too. To an extent. But when that manuscript reaches an editor or a target audience, chances are they’ll ask for more of something. More danger, more intrigue, more action… more, More, MORE!!!
So we must give our characters all the trouble they can handle without making them break. Unless that’s the point of the story.
For example: in my RomCom set in present-day Houston, my heroine (who is based quite a bit on me), would be uber boring if I didn’t give her some tragic backstory and history. Although the book is mostly lighthearted and funny, there are moments of sadness, grief, and despair. Within the walls of a RomCom, there is mention of, or actual murder, rape, violence, traumatic brain injuries, salacious gossip in the news, and physical pain.
Jeez! What kind of RomCom are you writing??? you might ask.
It’s one that teaches a lot of moral lessons, but those lessons don’t come without my protagonist being put through hardship and terrible struggles of growth and maturity. Because it’s a clean book without any sex (unfortunately, sex sells), there has to be something that will draw the reader in. And that, usually, is tragedy of some kind, real or imagined.
So let’s put our characters in trouble! Although it doesn’t have to be as dark as Macbeth, we should understand that tragedy, drama, and curiosity are what drive characters and books to their epic conclusions.
Kick them when they’re down? Absolutely!
Take away all their friends? Why not?
Kill someone they love? That’ll be fun.
Strip them of their dignity? Oh, the possibilities…
Do you agree? Please comment and share.
“When all the details fit in perfectly, something is probably wrong with the story.”
“Don’t resist the urge to burn down the stronghold, kill off the main love interest or otherwise foul up the lives of your characters.”
― Patricia Hamill