Double, Double Toil and TROUBLE!

Image (photo credit Writers Write Creative Blog)

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.

Happy writing!

 

“When all the details fit in perfectly, something is probably wrong with the story.” 

― Charles BaxterBurning Down the House: Essays on Fiction

 

“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

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13 thoughts on “Double, Double Toil and TROUBLE!

  1. Your book is set in Houston? I’ve never read a book set here. Except mine. And know of only one author who writes stories here. So now I need you to get your book published so I can read it. Like yesterday.

    As for the trouble thing, well I gave my character trouble because who the heck wants to read a suspense/mystery novel with no trouble? But maybe in my case I may have made everything a little too much. Eh. I don’t know.

    • I guess I’ll find out soon! 🙂

      As for my book… I don’t know if it’s something you’ll want to read. It’s a Christian RomCom, so I’m not sure how much you’ll enjoy it.

      The other book I’m writing seriously in is a middle grade fantasy. Again, I don’t know if that’s something that would appeal to you.

      I promise you don’t have to read them to appease me. I guarantee I won’t be hurt.

      And I’ve never been to Houston, but I needed a city that was large enough to support a professional sports team (hockey) that didn’t already have one.

      I know hockey isn’t as big in the South, but all the larger northern cities already have hockey teams, so I had to make do.

      I’m doing my best to get an insider’s perspective from friends who grew up/lived there before moving north. (Shame on them!). If you have any tidbits about Houston, please share!

      • It’s Christian? Hmmm. Probably not that one. But the fantasy one I’d like to. And I know I don’t HAVE to. But I told you way back that I wanted to. So there.

        Never been here? And have a book here. Hm. I’m kind of doing that now. I’m sending my guy to Austin. It won’t be for a huge chunk of the story but it’ll be some. I’ve maybe been to Austin once when I was younger.

        What do I know about Houston? It’s huge. And hot. As diverse as it gets. Low cost of living. Yeah. I know nothing. Hahaha

      • Haha! Well thanks for the help. 🙂

        I’ve been doing a lot of internet research and, although it’s set in Houston, the setting isn’t one of the main characters, you know?

        So I’m trying to include enough to keep it authentic, but not too much where it looks like I’m trying too hard.

      • And there’s Mexican food everywhere. Haha I’m sorry. I’ve never lived anywhere else and wrote a book set here and am just now realizing I know nothing. I’m sure I won’t even know that you’re not from here from your book.

      • I hope so. I’m from Michigan, so I’ve got a nasty Yankee accent. 🙂 My MC grew up in the panhandle, and I want to make sure her accent is authentic, but not overdone. We’ll see how I do!

      • Not everyone down here has an accent. I don’t. But I hear the southern accent down here sometimes. Like what one might call a southern drawl. But not like everywhere I turn.

      • Good to know! I have a friend who lived in various parts of Texas and she said the accent is different depending on where you are. She said people’s accents from the panhandle are a little thicker, but I didn’t want her to sound too accent-y so I’ve softened it a bit.

  2. wompdestroyed says:

    Reblogged this on Shakespeare Unlimited and commented:
    Great advice for writers! In every way shape and form, Shakespeare understood the excitement of trouble. In every one of his 37 plays, conflict and trouble pervade abundantly. Bravo, Sweet Swan of Avon; you demonstrated a complete mastery of writing that we all can learn from. I love you: Shakespeare.

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