Thursday, June 16, 2011

Putting Characters In Peril!!

Putting Characters In Peril -- I think that's the basic description of what I do as a writer. What most writers do, really :)  Whether it's explosion-kind-of-peril or emotional-peril, storytelling centers around this constant: conflict.

I was talking about first chapters with a friend who's starting his first novel. He asked for advice about beginnings, and I was like, well, first chapters are tricky (I should know, I've written about five different ones for Glitch!), but the basics are: 1) set up the central conflict and 2) give us a reason to give a damn about your main character dealing with the aforementioned conflict.

The same day, I was working on Book II of my trilogy, writing a very perilous scene. With explosions. And I felt this giddy excitement as I sat down to write, thinking mwahahaha! I'm gonna put my characters through hell today!

*then I paused and wondered about my mental health*

Because I do. I love a good death-threatening situation. And, alternately, I love digging into the painful emotional bits. Really grinding in and rubbing salt on every open wound, pushing painful conflicts to feel out the edges and steeps and hidden crevices. But then I realized, it's what all writers do--It's our job as to wring every drop of genuine emotion out of a situation, to make it resonate with readers so that some scene or bit of dialogue is impossible to get out of a reader's head.

An interviewer once asked Joss Whedon why he kept killing off beloved characters in his TV series'-- Buffy, Angel, Firefly (esp. the movie that came after, Serenity). His answer? "Because it hurts."

And that's it folks--the simple truth of what we writers are trying to do--to make it hurt. Or to make you tingle. Or to make you cry, or to make that winged thing in your chest take flight at some bit of beauty we're able to convey. Those are the magic moments. It's why we writers do what we do.

*well, that, and because we don't want grown-up jobs at offices* ;)


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  2. I must admit, I love this too...even if your characters' lives aren't at stake, their emotional state always is! Glad I'm not the only one who feels kind of bad about this. ;)

  3. I do adore my cruel friends. . . .

  4. Great post! And I was worried there was something wrong with me...LOL

  5. I second the "I don't want a grown-up job at an office" reason. :D

    Great post, Heather. I totally love the high-action, heart-pounding scenes. And while killing characters sucks, it definitely makes things more interesting! Poor characters. :(