When I was a kid, my dad was something of a fantasy nerd. And a computer nerd. As a result, I grew up on video games like ULTIMA, MIGHT AND MAGIC, and WIZARDRY.
Well, less WIZARDRY because the one game I tried in that series, you could save the game, but if your characters died, that was it. They were dead. I did not like that.
See, I anthropomorphize and personify things like nobody's business. I could tell you about the legions of stuffed animals I kept as a kid, even when they turned old and ratty, because I couldn't stand to hurt their feelings by throwing them away. But I won't. This time.
But all that to say, I really felt for the characters in those games. I couldn't stand to see them get hurt. One of my earliest games was ULTIMA: EXODUS. I honestly don't remember much about that game, because I was just a little Jodi, but I do remember having to get my characters out of the city, monsters in the wilderness, encroaching darkness . . . and how I got to the same point in the game at least four times and refused to go on, because that would mean risking my characters' lives.
Then the (virtual) world ended.
One of the important things my dad said to me was, "Save your game." I got used to doing this any time there was a monster fight. And then again after. I became a compulsive saver and eventually learned how to risk my characters' lives, because I knew I could resurrect them if it came to it, and putting the characters through all the monster-slaying and whatnot was the only way for them to level up and save the world.
When I started writing, the same thing happened. I was afraid to risk characters. I loved them! They were the children of my brain! How could I even think about hurting them? But then I realized that by doing that, I wasn't using them to their full potential. The world would end for them, just like it did for the poor characters in ULTIMA: EXODUS. If I wanted to test the characters and make the story worth experiencing, I had to learn to let them take risks.
I had to take risks in order to make the story worth reading.
So thanks, nearly traumatizing video games! Thanks to all the world-ending (though somehow it survived enough to get a sequel, in spite of the way I didn't save the world), and thanks to the characters dying everywhere. Thanks to the magic save button.
Just thinking about that, I'm inspired to let my characters take a few risks. (Maybe they'll die. Maybe they won't. Who knows!)