Thursday, January 18, 2007

Torturing characters

As y'all know, I find such inspiration reading other writer's blogs. I love it. Especially when I'm knee deep in my day job and just want a smidgen of the writing world. I feel that it keeps me on my game, keeps me focused and reminded. Plus, it's good old entertainment and learning.

To that end, here's what I've been thinking about recently. First, agent Kristin Nelson had a very good entry recently about common pitfalls in writing. It's been interesting to see this post reverberate around the net as various writers comment on which lessons are the hardest/most important/most interesting.

A few of her comments are very much in the "oh yeah, I've heard that before" but still always bear repeating. I really should start a file of all of these comments. They're always so "duh" in the moment and yet so hard to keep all in the head at once.

What really stuck out to me is the necessity to drive the story forward. Why have characters sitting around talking when there can be action. I remember Ally Carter talking about this, how she specifically changed a scene so that there was more action but the information from the dialogue still got across to the reader. Great tip to remember: make those scenes pull double or triple duty.

Another writing credo I have been pondering is the need to torture your characters. I remember Diana talking about this as she was rounding towards the climax in writing Secret Society Girl. She talked about giving her character all these great things and then yanking them away.* Other writers talk of daydreaming of the worst thing they can do to their characters. Some writers even say that they love their characters too much to really give them deep conflict - that it's a struggle for them to really hurt the character so that she can grow by the end of the book.

So I've been doing a lot of thinking recently about what I can take away from my character. About what she holds dear. And of course, then I have to figure out a way to take said thing away from her in a very dramatic and tension filled way. Gotta keep up the tension!

How do the rest of you deal with these issues? Do you already know how you'll torture your characters when you start the book? Is that something you think about when meeting your character or plotting out the action? Also, how do you make sure your scenes are carrying their weight?

As I said, lots to ponder :) I love thinking about writing!

* I totally have this post bookmarked because it's a great post about the 4 act structure. very much worth reading and re-reading!!

1 comment:

Anissa said...

I like that phrase, "Torturing your characters." For me, I have a lot of that planned out in the beginning. I know where the story is going plot-wise, and conflict is always a part of that. On the other hand a good portion of the torture occurs as the characters really start to interact. Then I have to adjust.

I need to do some more torturning, I think. :)

Great topic.