Monday, July 18, 2011

The Obligatory Dark Part

How many times have you watched a movie (specifically comedies/romantic comedies) and reached the point where you think "Ugh, I know they're going to get back together, but now they're pretending to hate each other. I hate this part" ?

Love the movie, but come on. If anyone didn't see Kat getting mad that 
Patrick was paid to take her they were not thinking.

There are a lot of movies I like that have this, and I realize that it's necessary to move on to the ending of the story and make for a more satisfying conclusion. Still, it's the part of the movie that I get up to refill my popcorn/drink/etc. Books, likewise, have this part. It looks like the hero is never going to get to his/her goal and yet you know that they'll make it there in the end.

The trick in writing is to make me not want to skip a bunch of pages or to make my butt glued to that couch until the very end. Even if I know that the hero gets the girl, make me question it. Too often, writers get attached to their characters and put them through necessary evils, but by making these evils completely atrocious and painful it often creates a better story.

Literary Agent Donald Maass (@DonMaass) tweets writing prompts designed to make your story better. While I personally don't believe that every single one of the prompts should be included in every story (personal preference) they are all ridiculously useful ways to make a story better. For example: "What’s the emotion or experience you’re most afraid to put your MC through? Go there. Do it. Now."

That prompt (number 29 out of 40-something) acknowledges that it's often the writer that's holding the story back. I'm guilty of it, I know I am. I love making my characters sweat, but I hate actually putting them in the fire. They're my little creations. But think of it this way: if your reader gets as attached to your character as you do, they'll be rooting for him/her even more if they have to overcome enormous odds to succeed. I'd rather watch someone climb a treacherous mountain than skip over a hill.

How do you get past putting your characters through hell?

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