Monday, April 08, 2013

Don't Play It Safe

[Image/quote via Advice to Writers]
As a writer, you should fall in love with your characters at some point, even the dastardly ones. Perhaps the dastardly ones most of all because when else in life is it safe to love a psychopath? But what I often see is the more a writer writes about a set of characters, the less she is able to torture them. She cares about them now and wants to give them a happy life / happy ending.

But creating meaningful ways to torture your characters is important to the narrative. Extremely important.

It's easy to set up a character with a conflict when you haven't yet gotten to know them, but as you come to understand their complexities, you -- like a good parent -- want to smooth the road ahead of them instead of throwing giant obstacles in their way.

Think of the movie Twister. A simple enough plot: chase a series of tornadoes trying to get close enough to put a scientific instrument inside a twister, all while grappling with daddy-issues and a marriage that's fallen apart. I'm not saying that Twister is the perfect narrative -- I'm saying that as your characters drive down the country road of the plot, you need to throw stuff at them. Throw a crazed rival scientist at them. Throw a new fiancée at them. Throw a cow at them. Roll a runaway house directly into their path. And if driving through a tumbling house wasn't enough -- throw an oil tanker at them and make it explode.

Keep throwing stuff at your characters -- physical obstacles and emotional ones. Give 'em both barrels. Inflict pain and suffering. Make it hurt so good.

Because we love to read it when it hurts so good.

Highly Recommended