Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Conflict and Tension, Part 2: Be mean to your characters



Conflict and Tension, Part 2: Be mean to your characters 
by Melanie Dickerson

As I spoke about in Conflict and Tension, Part 1, Conflict is one of the most important factors in any novel. We discussed in that first blog post how much and what kind of conflict and tension we need. Now I want to address some of the comments my post received, in which writers said they struggled with being “mean” to their characters, or not wanting to hurt them, as this is something I've struggled with too.

I recently came across my notes from a workshop Davis Bunn taught a few years ago. I don’t know if it was a paraphrase of something Davis Bunn said or a direct quote, but I had written, “Forget your attachment to your characters. Detach.”

We want our readers to feel an attachment to our characters, to feel what they’re feeling, and to empathize with them. But it can be a problem if we as the author are too attached to those characters. I had been taught this (or read it somewhere) early in my writing endeavors, but I’ve needed to be reminded of this recently! More on that later.



In my first published novel, The Healer’s Apprentice, I was plotting as I wrote. I reached a point where I thought, “If the heroine gets deathly ill, that could work well for the plot.” But I cringed inwardly. I didn’t want my heroine to get sick.

Wait, WHAT!? This was a no-no and I knew it! I couldn’t let compassion for my character cause me to pull back from a conflict that would make the story better. Basically, it came down to this: Did I want to write a great story? Or did I want an imaginary friend? Seriously. Think about it. Do I want and need to write a great story that keeps readers engaged and sells lots of books? Or do I need an imaginary friend who’s happy with me for protecting them from harm?

It sounds silly, but it’s true. If Rose, my heroine, had been a real person, then I would never want to make her get seriously sick. I’m not sadistic or into being cruel to people. But this was a story, and I could NOT let myself feel sorry for my character, or get too attached to her. I needed to detach from my character for the sake of the story.

And so I let her contract meningitis and get to the point of near-death. And that led to a lovely scene where the hero was able to show off his heroism by finding and saving the heroine, who was stranded in the woods. He was in great anguish over the heroine’s possible death, and it pushed him to declare his love for her as soon as she was recovering. That led the heroine to selflessly refuse his proposal of marriage, in order to save him from the consequences that would ensue if he gave up his rights as the oldest son of a duke to marry a peasant. That's a mouthful, but just know that it produced a great chain of events and lots of lovely angst. And angst is conflict, and conflict is good.



I came up against this problem in the last book I wrote, The Orphan’s Wish. I was too attached to my hero, though I wasn’t really aware of it at the time, and it made it so much more difficult to write the story. I knew bad things needed to happen, but it was hard, and I found myself smoothing things over for my hero. I let him get out of his difficulties rather too easily. But through rewrites and editing, I worked hard on fixing this problem, thanks to great editors and a great agent, who read the story and said the words you never want to hear: "This needs more work." 

But it just goes to show, you need to keep reminding yourself of good writing techniques and principles. Or I do, anyway.

Keeping your reader engaged is so important, and conflict and tension are key to this. You have to continually ask yourself, What is keeping my reader turning the pages? The answer is . . . a question. You have to plant questions in your reader’s mind and keep them in suspense. And the question could be, Will the heroine’s—and hero’s—secret identity be discovered by the bad guy? (The Noble Servant) Or, Will the hero realize he’s in love with the heroine before he marries the wealthy land-owning widow? (The Golden Braid) Or, Will the hero find out the heroine is not who she pretends to be? (The Silent Songbird) Or, Will the hero be able to rescue the heroine from the villain before the villain kills him? (The Captive Maiden)



The possibilities are endless, and one question won’t necessarily carry you through till the end of the story. You must be prepared to let one question be answered—let that conflict be resolved—if that is what works for the story. But if you do, you MUST HAVE A NEW CONFLICT to take its place, more tension, more reasons why the reader will want to keep turning pages.

And that will be our topic for my next post, Conflict and Tension, Part 3.

So, discussion time. Have you caught yourself holding back because you didn’t want to be “mean” to your characters? Are you being "mean enough" to your characters? Also, what questions are you forcing on your reader so that they will keep turning pages to get that question answered? I will give away a copy of my Little Mermaid retelling, The Silent Songbird, to one commenter.


Orphaned and alone, Aladdin travels from the streets of his Arab homeland to a strange, faraway place. Growing up in an orphanage, he meets young Lady Kirstyn, whose father is the powerful Duke of Hagenheim. Despite the difference in their stations, Aladdin quickly becomes Kirstyn’s favorite companion, and their childhood friendship grows into a bond that time and opposition cannot break.
Even as a child, Aladdin works hard, learning all he can from his teachers. Through his integrity, intelligence, and sheer tenacity, he earns a position serving as the duke’s steward. But that isn’t enough to erase the shame of being forced to steal as a small child—or the fact that he’s an orphan with no status. If he ever wants to feel equal to his beautiful and generous friend Kirstyn, he must leave Hagenheim and seek his fortune.
Yet once Aladdin departs, Lady Kirstyn becomes a pawn in a terrible plot. Now, Aladdin and Kirstyn must rely on their bond to save Kirstyn from unexpected danger. But will saving Kirstyn cost Aladdin his newfound status and everything he’s worked so hard to obtain?
An enchanting new version of the well-known fairy tale, The Orphan’s Wish tells a story of courage and loyalty, friendship and love, and reminds us what “family” really means.

(Oh my heart. I'm still attached. LOL!)




Melanie Dickerson is the author of fairy tale retellings set in Medieval Europe, as well as a trilogy of Regency romance novels. Her 14th book releases June 26th. When she's not plotting mean things happening to her characters, she's writing, spending time on facebook, reading devotionals (which she has an addiction to), or panicking over a deadline. Oh, and you can frequently find her in Seekerville, blogging and commenting. Visit her Amazon author page, where you can click the "follow" button and get notified whenever she has a new book out.






121 comments:

  1. This is a good post. It is hard to have our characters going through painful conflict. But then we all have to go through conflicts in our lives. It is how we deal with the conflicts and trials that counts, I am sure it is the same with the characters we write.

    I am facing something new in my life. In a few minutes I will be leaving to have some tests done which may or may not reveal cancer. I have to keep reminding myself that God is in control and is going through this with me. The thought did cross my mind that what I am going through now could at some point appear in a book I write.

    I hope everyone will have a great day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wilani, I will pray for you now. Hang in there.
      Kathy Bailey

      Delete
    2. Wilani, I am saying a prayer for you right now, that you will feel God's presence, because he is indeed with you, and that the tests will NOT reveal cancer. Praying for you to have peace, because sometimes the torture of worry is worse than the thing we're worried about. That's me, anyway.

      You are so right. It's through the conflicts that we see our characters in action and develop our feelings about them. And with writing, it's all about producing feelings in the reader!

      Delete
    3. Wilani, praying for you as you undergo your tests. May the Lord's peace be with you.

      Delete
    4. Praying for peace as you go through the testing and wait for the results. Also praying for a good outcome!

      Delete
    5. No cancer The cyst completely disappeared. The Lord is good.

      Delete
    6. YAY!!! So glad to hear that, Wilani!!! God is looking out for you!

      Delete
    7. Thanks for sharing that great news, Wilani!

      Delete
    8. What wonderful news, Wilani! I'm happy for you. You must be relieved.

      Delete
    9. Wilani, praying for you right now.

      O, now I read down the comments. YAY! Such great news! Thank you, Wilani for sharing with us!

      Delete
  2. Melanie, I LOVE THIS. Especially this. "Or do I need an imaginary friend who’s happy with me for protecting them from harm?" I have enough imaginary friends.
    In my current WIP the hero initially holds off from the heroine because she rejected him in high school. (It's a reunion romance. Obviously.) She comes back and they begin to kindle something -- until he finds out that her feckless father was the hit-and-run driver that killed his first wife, and she UNKNOWNINGLY helped him cover up the crime. Paul moves away from Jill so he can process this, and Jill, who has already lost her job, has nothing. Which propels her to accept Christ. Which Changes Everything.
    Melanie, I am so glad you joined the Seeker staff, this post and your others have been helpful.
    Kathy Bailey

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy, that sounds like a really great story! And accepting Jesus and what he did for us DOES change everything!!! :-) If we're too attached to our characters, it makes us not want them to hurt. But hurt can literally bring us to the greatest things in life, like finding and accepting Christ. Great job!!!

      Aw, that is sweet of you, Kathy! I love being here. It's fun for me! And I hope I am helping, as I was helped when I was a newbie. God bless!

      Delete
    2. And not just when I was a newbie! I'm still helped by Seekerville posts! :D

      Delete
    3. That's what I like. We're all on the same journey, just at different stages.

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. No worries! We all misspell things from time to time! :-)

      Delete
  4. Hey, Mel, fun post, my friend!

    Uh-oh ... are you going to think I'm mean if I tell you I have NEVER had this problem? If anything, the reverse. My editor actually had to get me to tone DOWN the conflict I inflicted on one of my heroes John Brady from A Passion Denied -- considerably!! And good heavens, I really didn't want to because I think it more clearly authenticated my heroine's response. :) But I did it because my editor told me to and in the long run, I suspect it was the right thing to do given my market. But I will admit it hurt more than a little when I received several reviews that stated they didn't think there was strong enough motivation for the heroine to reject the hero, a component that was necessary for the plot. Oh well! :)

    Your new book looks reallly good, my friend, but I would expect nothing else. I do have a question, however. I noticed you used the real fairy-tale name for the hero -- Alladin. I think that's the first time you used the actual name from the fairy-tale you are replicating, true? If so, I'm curious as to why.

    HUGS!!
    Julie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, Julie!!! You fiend, you!!! LOL! I think it's awesome that you don't get too attached to your characters to inflict necessary pain on them. That is the right call! And I'd expect nothing less from the Queen of Pure Passion!!! :D
      Ah yes, the pain of those critical reviews. As well as the pain of wondering if the edits are making the story better--or worse! Or just different. LOL! I've had that happen a few times too, where I made changes because the editor suggested it, and then was criticized for not doing what I had originally done! But that's the subjective nature of fiction. And I'm sure the edits made the book stronger. It's just so easy to second-guess ourselves. Maybe if you re-release it you can tweak it some more, to your own liking!!!
      Thank you, Julie! Yes, I have used the fairy tale name before, in my Rapunzel story. It just seemed to work for this story to use Aladdin. He was from the Middle East so he needed that kind of name, so I went to the source of the story, and there was the original name, and I went with it. :-) I don't usually get that attached to my characters, but Aladdin was just different. I started the story when he was a little boy, at his mother's funeral. Maybe that was why! Plus, in his spiritual journey, he is me! And this has been a rough time in my life, so . . . a combination of factors. :-)
      Love and hugs, Julie!

      Delete
    2. Julie - pardon me for jumping into this conversation, but I just couldn't help it. I know I've told you before that A Passion Denied is my favorite Julie Lessman book. and despite how WONDERFUL all your books are, I cannot imagine changing my opinion. That said, I have also told you Brady's predicament made me cry - three times - and I am not someone who cries over books. So, your editor had me pegged on that one. Anymore struggles for Brady and I might not have been able to handle that. Julie, I love the way you write with such passion and you made me fall in love with Brady. IMHO, quite in enough passion and pain in APD.

      Delete
    3. LOL. JULIE, you mean to tell me Brady's story was TONED DOWN?!!

      Delete
    4. LOL ... yes, Just Commonly, it was -- BIG TIME!! ;)

      Hugs!!
      Julie

      Delete
  5. I had never thought of it that way - but what does keep us readers turning pages IS the "question"! Always wanting to know the answers or what will happen next is a big motivator to turn pages. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, exactly, Susan! The name of the game is to keep the reader wanting to know what will happen. :-)

      Delete
    2. So true. The unanswered ones, the ones lurking to spill, but haven't quite gotten there yet. I know when it's a good one, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough!

      Delete
  6. It's not easy being mean. No, wait. It's not easy being green. OR at least so says Kermit the Frog. My bad.

    Good morning, Melanie. Excellent post. Yes, it is difficult to be mean to these people we create, but it's a necessary evil. Yet it seems I always have to remind myself just how beneficial it is for both the story and the characters.

    As Donald Maass is fond of saying, "What's the worst thing that can happen to your character?" It's a phrase that still lives in my mind.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Mindy! Just remember, you NEED a great story, not a great imaginary friend! LOL!
      But so true. It's not easy. :-)

      Delete
  7. Or maybe "unknowningly" IS a word. I just don't know any more...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL, Kaybee! We all "know" what you meant, and that's the definition of communication. (I just made that up.)

      Delete
  8. Great post, Melanie. I have tried to keep that in mind when I write my book. I'm sure I still have a lot of work to do.

    This is a stressful time for me. My mom is in the hospital and it isn't good. She has had MS for 36 years and has been in the nursing home for the past couple of years. Now she has pneumonia and other problems and we are just waiting to see what happens next. We are not doing any extreme care--just keeping her comfortable. All of my siblings have come home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Sandy, I'm so sorry. That is certainly stressful. I pray God will be with everyone, all of your family, and your mother will get the best possible loving care.

      Delete
    2. So sorry to hear this, Sandy! I will keep you, your mom, and your family in my prayers.

      Delete
    3. Sandy, I'm so very sorry. Will be praying for all of you.

      Delete
    4. Thank you, Jan and Missy. We are putting her on hospice today. It will just be a matter of time.

      Delete
  9. Melanie, I enjoyed your post and learning just how hard it can be for authors to create some of the situations for their characters. I just finished Fugitive Spy by Jordyn Redwood and my constant question was "How can this be happening to such a God loving man?" I knew the answer off course. Every day terrible things happen to God loving people and Ms. Redwood knew this!
    Blessings!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Connie! Yes, the things that happen in a book can remind of real life, the bad things that happen to good people for seemingly no reason. But writing fiction helps remind me that God can use even the worst things for good. Thanks for commenting!

      Delete
  10. Nice post! That's one thing I need to work on, getting mean to my characters!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's hard but necessary, LeAnne! We have to detach, even if only temporarily, so we can made the story the best it can be!

      Delete
  11. It's raining--flooding, actually--here in North Alabama. When I took my daughter to school the roadside ditches were like white water rapids. So I've brought some comforting hot oatmeal with walnuts, dried cranberries, and blueberries to sprinkle over the top. Also brought some Boston Creme coffee cakes (they look like little ganache-covered muffins!) from Atlanta Bread Company, because they are my favorite!!! Yum!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, Ruthy, do you have the recipe for Boston Creme Coffee Cake???

      Delete
    2. Atlanta Bread Company! I love that place, but haven't been to one since we moved away from Kentucky!

      Thanks for the great memories. :-)

      Delete
    3. Love The Oatmeal. I'll eat anything with cranberries and walnuts.

      Delete
    4. Oh my stars, no, but now I want the recipe for Boston Cream Coffee Cake!!!!

      Delete
    5. We had an Atlanta Bread Co. here on the East side of town but it's gone now... the whole "BLAME BREAD FOR EVERYTHING" craze really did a number on bread bakeries, and you know what??? People still have weight issues, even after putting bakeries out of business... Ay yi yi... Give me gluten... or give me death. And darling, those little cakes sound perfect as an option instead of DEATH!!!!

      Delete
    6. Haha! Ruthy, good points! ;-)
      They are so yummy. I sometimes call them "Boston Cream Muffins" and the associate corrects me, but they're like little sweet muffins with a pudding filling in the center and chocolate ganache on top. Oh my. So dreamy.

      Delete
    7. The funny thing is, I don't even like Boston Cream Cake.

      Delete
  12. Great post, Melanie! I can't wait for part 3!

    We need to use tough love with our characters, don't we? We know the internal change they need to make, and we know that they can only get there by going through some terrible things to make them see the need for that change.

    Poor characters.

    But, like Wilani said above, it's how we deal with conflict that counts. As authors, we can have our characters respond to the conflict in a way that brings about that necessary change...and when we do that we show our readers how they can deal with the trials in their own lives, either with a positive example or a negative example.

    Hmm, now it's time to go ramp up the conflict in my WIP!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, all true, Jan! And if we can detach from personal feelings about our characters, it can actually be fun to ramp up the conflict, because it moves the story forward, and makes it go "faster" so that it's actually fun, seeing our characters moving from Point A to Point B spiritually and emotionally!

      Delete
    2. Jan, totally get what you are saying. The heroine in my first Christmas romance was sexually molested as a child. I needed to have something big keeping her away from Christ, and something monumental that she'd have to let go in order to let Him in. She's better off now, but it was touch and go for a while -- for both of us.

      Delete
  13. Melanie, I'm dying laughing. Best quote of the year: "Did I want to write a great story? Or did I want an imaginary friend?"

    Hahaha!! I love it (and just tweeted it). :) But you're right. I do that very thing! Thank you for making me even more aware of it. I think I'll have to type that quote and print it. Will paste it on my screen (or maybe put it on a sticky note and stick on my forehead). :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! So glad I could make you laugh, Missy! My purpose for the day is done. :-)
      Thanks for tweeting, and thanks if you were the one who posted on the Seekerville facebook page!

      Delete
  14. Oh Melanie, I LOVE this post and that's because I so get it! Sometimes I think I am the only one who feels this way, but even as a reader I struggle with this. Could someone just write a lovely little romance that is happy and romantic without characters having to go through all that trauma to get to their HEA?
    As a writer, sometimes I believe the reason I struggle with putting my characters through struggles is that many of them are actually me disguised as a character in a book - if that makes sense.
    And yes, I will admit that when it comes to heroes, I have had some very non-fictional feelings about fictional characters.
    Thanks for a great post

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're not the only one, Cindy! In fact, you sound exactly like me! I turn to a Hallmark-like rom-com when I get in the mood for, as you put it so perfectly, "a lovely little romance that is happy and romantic without characters having to go through all that trauma to get to their HEA"
      My sentiments exactly! LOL

      But of course, as I talked about in my first Conflict and Tension post last month, I get tired of too much Hallmark-like sweetness and oh-so-mild conflict and start wishing for something meatier. :-)

      And yes again, Cindy! Sometimes I've given my character the same struggle I'm going through, and that does make it harder. And those fictional boyfriends. Sigh. The feelings are real, the boyfriend is not.
      LOL!!!!!

      Delete
    2. Cindy, there were "lovely little romances." They were our mothers' Harlequins. I'm so glad we're able to write genre romance with some depth, and even tackle some unpleasant subjects. This is truly a great time to be a writer. In some ways.

      Delete
  15. Melanie, *giggle*

    Yes! LOVED this post. I hate being mean to my characters. Hate it. But Davis Bunn's advice to "detach" is so spot-on. When bad things happen (*a-hem* conflict) then we have it within our power to turn our stories on their heels and create FABULOUS outcomes. :-)

    And what a great "imaginary friend" quote! Story/friend. Hmmm.... Can't it be both ways? Waaaaaaahhhh LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Davis Bunn is one brilliant guy. I found him to be a very deep thinker! Some of what he said went over my head, if I'm honest. LOL! But you're so right. It's the conflict that helps make our stories, and makes the outcomes FAB!

      LOL! I guess we can have it both ways, as long as we "detach" while we're writing the story. Then, since they're our creation after all, we can make them our friend again after we finish the book. :-)

      Delete
    2. Cynthia, that really cracked me up, too! I tweeted that quote. LOL

      Delete
  16. I was over here early but I had online issues and was trying to solve them... Melanie, this is so stinkin' true. I'm a mom. I'm a problem-solver. I want to make things better!!! I want to FIX EVERYONE.

    Now of course that just ups and ruins a story!!!!

    So we have to fight it, but I feel like a wretched meany pants when I do it...

    Dagnabbit, why can't life just be easy and nice and kind and good????

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you solved your issues, Ruthy!
      Yes, I want to fix and solve and nurture. But that is not what an author needs to do. It does ruin the story if we treat our characters the way we treat our children! Although, we do have to let our kids suffer consequences, as good moms. It's the only way they'll learn anything. Hmmm. Maybe being an author is like being a mom. The only difference is that with our characters we have all the control! With our kids? Not so much.
      Thanks for coming by, Ruthy!

      Delete
    2. Says the woman who killed off a secondary character in her first book!!

      :)

      Delete
    3. I have killed, maimed, tortured and abused more people than any one author should admit to... to the point where one review said "THREE PEOPLE HAD TO DIE TO GET THIS BOOK SET UP THE WAY IT IS... AND I STILL LOVED IT." :)

      Hey.

      It's part of the job. ;)

      Delete
  17. Me too, Melanie! I had a heck of a time learning to be mean enough to my characters. But you have to have a very dark night if you want the 'morning' at the end of the story to pop up nice and bright :-) I write suspense, and for that genre I find it's helpful to have some small, personal concerns in the midst of everything to keep the reader moving. Of course you have the big plot twists and such, but a small issue, close to the hero or heroine's heart, keeps a reader going too. Love the 'imaginary friend' analogy. So true. Who doesn't want to take care of their buddy? :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love what you said here about a 'very dark night' and 'morning'. Beautiful. And so true.

      Delete
    2. Even when you know it's your writing goal, it can still be kinda tricky :-) Especially if you're naturally tender-hearted.

      Delete
    3. Very good points, Jenna! I like what you said about having to have some small but personal concerns. I think that would fit into the "stakes" category. Always good to make the reader concerned, whether big things or small.

      Delete
  18. Evidently I am just a mean person. Ha! As I was reading through your post, I kept thinking about my manuscripts. I have caused my characters to lose jobs, lose a baby, deal with parents being sick, and thinking the guy likes the other girl. Although I will admit that the miscarriage was the hardest to write. No one should have to go through that, not even fictional characters. :-(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've let my characters go through some pretty traumatic stuff too, Amy. Usually I can be objective and detached, but occasionally I let myself get too close. :-) Hazards of the job. Haha!

      Delete
  19. Great post, MELANIE! As a reader, it's hard to watch character go through harsh circumstances. Tension does bring depth to the story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carul, I think it really depends on the circumstances. Sometimes it does feel TOO harsh to me. I don't like books like that. I remember one book I read by a very popular author whose books I normally liked. But this one read differently from her other books. SO MANY bad things happened, and they were SO BAD! One after another. I was so frustrated at the end of that book. I did not enjoy it at all. Just too much IMO.

      Delete
    2. Sorry! My finger slipped. I know it's Caryl. :-)

      Delete
  20. Okay, I will admit to torturing people... but only because it REALLY happens, not because I'm some kind of evil sadist who likes it... how does an author make a point of hope and redemption and change and kindness if there aren't stumbling blocks (some of mine are more like stumbling mountain ranges, and I'm okay with that.) :) along the way?

    :)

    This is a great post, Melanie, and suffering becomes you!

    Your friend,

    Ruthy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You torture your characters Ruthy, but I still love you anyway :-)

      Why...because of the redemption and change in their lives. I KNOW what to expect at the end and I look forward to it :-)

      Delete
    2. It's true, Ruthy. You are an evil sadist who likes it. Wait. No, you said NOT an evil sadist. My bad. Well, it's true. You have to have some bad things happen so the happy ending is more satisfying. (That was your point, right?)

      Haha! You know I love you. And yes, my name is derived from the same root word as "melancholy" and means "black" so I was doomed to suffer, Ruthy.

      :-) JK

      Delete
    3. My poor, sweet, darling-umpkin!!!! We shall uplift you in your "doom-dom"!!!! ;)

      Or mock you.

      It's hit and miss around here!

      Delete
  21. I have ALWAYS had this problem. I avoid conflict in real life like it's the plague, so to do it to my characters seems so cruel. But I think your phrase about whether you want a character or an imaginary friend might just be a game-changer for me. I need to spend some time pondering that. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are most welcome, Glynis! I hope it helps! Remember your goal, which is to be a GREAT NOVELIST, NOT a great friend to imaginary people.
      LOL!

      Delete
  22. At first, I didn't hurt my characters. Then I found out how much more exciting a story can be if the hero and heroine are wounded...physically. Hmmm? Maybe I should wound my current hero! :)

    Thanks, Melanie, for a great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha!!! My hero and/or heroine almost ALWAYS get wounded, Debby! There's something so vulnerable and sigh-worthy about a wounded hero, especially.

      Delete
  23. Fantastic post, Melanie! This is what I love about writing...I can be mean, which is out of character for me. Looking forward to your third installment.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Fantastic post, Melanie! This is what I love about writing...I can be mean, which is out of character for me. Looking forward to your third installment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! Atta girl, Jill! Being mean can be fun. Embrace it!

      Delete
  25. As a reader, I don't like to see the author put the characters I love through the fire. But I know it's necessary to create tension, layers, and show the grace of God or redemption (or both) of said characters. In weakness, great strength can be found. How will you be able show the ways a character will change and grow without conflict? You can't! Just in real life, we all struggle with something and it can either make or break us. :-)

    I will also admit I've shed real tears for characters. I also think it's another way to bond your reader to them. I just finished reading Susan Anne Mason's book "A Most Noble Heir" (March release) where she is the master at just this very thing! My heart connected with Nolan--the hero--through all the things she put him through as well as Hannah. Character growth is so important to me as a reader. Without it, it just seems flat to me & I will put the book away.

    Now that's not to say I won't rant at you in my head as I read your books...lol!! But I know it's for the characters own good sometimes :-) You always redeem yourselves in the end when I close the story with a sigh!

    Melani, please toss my name in the fish bowl for "The Silent Songbird", thanks so much! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would love to put your name in the ole' fish bowl, Trixi! Thanks for giving a reader's eye view. And thanks for understanding that we have to put our readers through bad things to get to the satisfying ending!

      Oh yes, I have cried for characters too! I cried when I read Ol' Yeller to my daughter, and I cried when I read Little Women to her too, even though I'd read them both before and knew what would happen. But these bad things were realistic and made sense. It was the way life was back then. I totally understand and forgive those authors for making me cry! :-)

      Delete
    2. I love a good cry while reading a book! :) But I have read some books where it gets a little ridiculous what all they go through--disaster after disaster after disaster. If that happens too much, I feel like the author has yanked around on purpose and get irritated. But when the conflict flows naturally from misfortune or bad decisions, then I enjoy it.

      Delete
    3. I agree Missy...I've always said there should be a balance in all of life, and that includes stories. I know sometimes it probably can be a difficult line to find for authors, but when they do...it's bliss! :-)

      Delete
    4. Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion!!! (Truvy, Steel Magnolias)

      I love that movie and I laughed and cried and laughed and cried.... and that's how I like books to affect me.

      Make me laugh and cry... and I'm a fan forever!

      Delete
    5. yes, Trixi! Me too! I have ugly-cried over characters who are being mercilessly tortured by their authors ;)

      Delete
  26. I love your question- or did I want an imaginary friend? As a reader it really can seem that way! You highlighted another difference writers must have from readers in order to make the story a priority. Loved this post!

    Please enter me in the book giveaway :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Heidi! I am entering your name in the drawing!

      Delete
  27. I still struggle with not coddling my characters too much. My husband laughs because he can always tell when I get to a part of a story where things are most unpleasant for my characters, because I get sad. :( LOL!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Melanie this is such an encouraging post! I have never really thought about how important it is to put our characters through the tough stuff and not just the tough enough stuff.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Excellent post, Melly, and exactly what I needed!
    Conflict and having my characters experience pain/hardships is what I struggle with the most in my writing. *sigh* I always say it's because I was a kindergarten teacher and wanted everyone to get along and "play nice" LOL. But I know without the conflicts, pain, etc. the story is flat and blah. No one wants to read flat and blah! ;) So, I continue working on this - - and your post offers great reminders and encouragement. Thank you!! :)
    Hugs, Patti Jo
    p.s. I'm later posting due to being out of town on Wednesday visiting my precious grandbaby!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I am in love with that grandbaby, Patti Jo! She is a two-thumbs up little dolly!!!!

      Delete
    2. That makes me happy, Patti Jo!!! So glad I could help. Keep pushing through with creating that conflict and pain. You will love the results in the end, which is a great story!!!
      Love and hugs!

      Delete
  30. As a reader, the "tough stuff" makes the story seem more real to me and, therefore, more relatable. It is encouraging to read about their heartbreak and subsequent healing. It's a reminder that God can bring you through anything and you are never alone. Thank you for a great post. Please enter me in the giveaway! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Holly, I couldn't agree more. That subsequent healing means so much more if we see their pain, if we identify with what they're going through. Beautifully stated.

      Delete
    2. Very true, Holly! I feel the same way. I've worked through many of my own issues while writing my stories! (I hope that wasn't revealing too much. LOL!)

      Delete
  31. Wow, Melanie. I'm not sure I ever really pondered the possibility that being attached to our characters can be detrimental as writers. You've give me much to think about! Thank you. And please enter me in the drawing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kelly, it's an eye-opener, isn't it? Like... LIGHT BULB MOMENT!!!!!!

      Delete
    2. You're most welcome, Kelly! I hope it helps!

      Delete
  32. Hi, Melanie! I read through several other comments before I was brave enough to confess I'm a mean author. Terrible things happen to my characters, and I get kind of excited when I think of a new terrible event and the chain of reaction it could set off. (I'm the very opposite in person, I promise!) I'm not sure if this is Jerry Jenkins's quote or if he was quoting someone else, but I learned to ask, "What could make this worse?" Then I let my imagination take over from there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. P.S. Although I already make bad things happen to my characters, your post gave me some new things to think about, to be more intentional about. Thanks!

      Delete
    2. Karen, if you get more intentional about torturing your characters, I'm not sure I'll survive!! hahah!

      Delete
    3. Karen, is it mean if they aren't real? LOL! I think it makes you a savvy and goal-oriented writer, and that's a very good thing. Keep up the good work!

      Delete
  33. Hi Melanie:

    If you think of your characters as actors in your 'novel production', then you'll see how giving them challenging parts is exactly what they most dream about as a way to command the stage and showcase their talent. It's not mean at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Vince! good to see you! I like that perspective - letting them show off their talent. To the reader, it still feels mean sometimes though LOL

      Delete
    2. Vince, it's so good to see you! I like your idea of thinking of the characters as actors. I used to envision my stories in my head like a movie. But I've kind of lost that ability.

      Delete
    3. That's a great way to think about it, Vince! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
    4. Vince, that's an excellent way to think of it. I'm not being mean to my characters, I'm allowing them to exercise their 'range' on my story's pages!

      Delete
    5. Vince, that is a great analogy! I love that too because it really gives the characters "life" in acting that role.

      Delete
  34. Sorry I haven't been around all day! I was out gabbing with my local writer friends. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL. Gab away. y'all keep spurring on each other and get those stories out and on pages!

      Delete
  35. I liked...The possibilities are endless...part :)

    ReplyDelete