I have been slowly plowing through the massive backlog that is my Bloglines. It’s astonishing how fast it piles up! Anyway, I came across this post on Deadline Dames by Lilith Saint Crow. If you haven’t read it, do. Go now. Really.
Read it? Okay. Welcome back.
The part that really resonated with me was this:
* What is the risk here? You might be afraid of your character risking something. Without risk there is no reward. If your character isn’t really running a risk, of course it feels like you’re just phoning it in. Sit down and figure out what your characters are risking. Then, up the ante. Make them pay for it. Get your heart in your mouth. Be unsure whether or not they’re going to make it. Get them dirty and make them deal with consequences. I know you don’t want to–you really don’t want to hurt your characters. But you have to. Otherwise you have a story with no risk, and no reward.
Pot and I were talking about this earlier today (or maybe yesterday–can’t remember). It’s something we’re both guilty of but in different ways.
I have no problem whatsoever upping the ante with my characters regarding external circumstances. Throw in threat to life and limb, have someone kidnapped, kill somebody off, have brush with crazed serial killer–no problem. But emotionally–my characters always play it safe. They rarely want to admit to more than attraction because God forbid we admit it’s love without confirmation of the other party’s feelings. Pot, on the other hand, is far more likely to have her characters jump off the emotional high dive, but has more difficulty with upping the ante with external stakes. Seriously, if we mashed our brains together, we would be unstoppable.
I have to admit that this tendency to play it emotionally safe is far too much me being me because in real life, I always played it safe. Well, except for one time, and that didn’t turn out well (heart crushed into teeny, tiny, indecipherable pieces, which DH later came and glued back together–sweet man). I think, too, I also have trouble making it believable. Which is weird because I really love books that make those emotional leaps, and I usually don’t have too much trouble constituting some faith and jumping after them. I don’t know why I’m not willing to take that leap with my characters.
So that’s what I’ve been doing tonight, reading over what I have of Act 1 and the rest of my outline to see how I can up the stakes.
Do you have trouble putting your characters at risk? Or are you one of those sadist authors who likes to bring on the pain? 😀