wodke-hawkinson.com Blog Musings from deviant minds (Or how writers think)

28Sep/11

Hurting Your Characters

We knew pretty much everything about our character, Brook, before we ever set words to a page. She was a lot like us, or people we've known. She was the pretty girl we went to high school with, the nice one that had a smile for everybody. Brook was born and raised not far from where we live. We liked her. She was a Kansas girl. But before the readers even got the chance to know and appreciate her quiet strength, her kind nature, or her particular circumstances, we started being very mean to her. Right from the start of the novel, Betrayed, we put her into a dangerous situation with horrific consequences. The question is; isn't it hard to hurt a character you like? And the answer is yes. Sometimes it is hard.

There were points along the way when one of us would say to the other, "Oh, that's really bad. We have to pull back on that." And we did. Our manuscript underwent massive changes along the way. Brook was not hurt as badly by the final draft as she had been in the beginning. Still, she was grossly mistreated. We like to think we made it up to her later; but were she real, she would probably not agree.

Many times an author treats a character in unbelievably cruel ways, puts him or her into nightmare situations. It's part of the story. When writers grow fond of their characters, this can present a dilemma. To stick with the storyline, sometimes we must harm our favorite imaginary people. While we can blame the abusers in the book for Brook's suffering, we realize if we are honest with ourselves, that it's really all our fault. The abusers did what we told them to do, the pigs. But they're bad guys, and bad guys are…well, bad.

We are not comparing our writing to that of Tolkien, but imagine if he had caved to sympathy for Frodo. It wouldn't have been the same story. Frodo might have tossed the ring aside, said no to an extended jaunt through dangerous lands, and simply remained at Bag End eating crumpets and drinking tea. It would hardly have filled one book, let alone three. And no movie would have come of it. We can all be thankful the author did not take it easy on Frodo.

So, Brook and many other characters in other books have had to endure great hardship. Not only that, but their torment has come at the very hands of those who care about them the most, the authors. To writers everywhere who know what this feels like, remember not to love your characters so much that you can't hurt them. And if you have to hurt them, try to give them something back in return. It helps.

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