Thursday, December 30, 2010

WORDSMITHING 101 - Part Six - Don't Give Your Protagonist The Easy Road

Just like there's rules of the road when you drive your car, when you write you need to have several rules of the writing road in mind as you write.

Conflict is one. This is pretty much king. If you don't want your characters to come out flat, if you don't want your readers to become bored because two characters agree too much with one another--because this just doesn't happen in real life, either--you need conflict to stir things up a bit. Even if they are friends. Every character has their own motives, their own secrets, their own destiny, and sometimes their destiny may cause conflict with another. And keep in mind, they may refuse to do something on the grounds that it's distasteful, or they fear something. That's why you need to know everyone of your characters intimately when you begin your story. If one person is afraid of heights, then put them in a predicament where they have to conquer their fear because it's a life and death situation.

Another rule that is also just as important is DON'T LET YOUR CHARACTER HAVE IT TOO EASY!

As I've been working along in my next two books, the things that my protagonist most wants in life is to love someone and be loved back. I'm not a romance writer, but there is romance in my books. In Vampire Ascending I don't want you to know who Sabrina will finally be with at the end, until we're more than half-way through the book. And in my second book, the very reason they were allowed to be together is pulled, yanked, because of--you guessed it--all the conflicting reasons behind who/what they are. Life is never fair and conflict is king. Emotions must play a part in some of the reasons your characters act and react the way they do, but you need to set it all up, carefully. Which is where I'm at with the second book.

But other than love, there are other things, the smaller things. The scenes that take place throughout. Whatever Sabrina's objective, even when she thinks she's got the whole thing figured out, something wild and new happens. It's usually something she has to deal with, and it's usually something she really doesn't want to do, but has to because of the fact she has no other options, and she has new responsibilities.

When you get into a scene with your characters the #1 question you have to ask yourself is What is the worst thing that could happen here, or to my character?

When Sabrina is babysitting her nieces in the second book, Vampire's Trill and her shift changing partner, Dante, is slowly trying to shift up into human form--which takes days--I had Sabrina stretched out on the couch watching TV with Dante in the form of a dog, her nieces up in bed, and soon her brother and his wife will come home. Suddenly the dog shifts into a black jaguar. And then, if this isn't scary enough, he shifts back into human form--buck naked.

At this point, again, I asked myself, how much worse could this get? Well, you guessed it. Her brother and his wife come home.

I must admit I like to throw a little humor into my books and this is just one example. Dante does make it out of the house, wrapped up in a blanket, but the crazy moments makes for both a humorous moment, and giving a break from some of the heavier things that happen throughout the story, and especially all the emotional things that happen after this moment between the two.

We, as writers, know almost instinctively what the worst things that might happen to our characters, and we have to at least give way to those ideas. You may wind up with an intriguing read if your reader simply doesn't know what will happen next.

Hey! This is the last Wordsmithing post of the year. I'll be back with a new one next week, hopefully, and hope to see you all there with me again!

Happy New Year!

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