Don’t Go So Easy On Them

by limebirdamber

In life, we often misunderstand how we feel. We confuse love for lust, passion for apathy, all in an attempt to lie to ourselves and say we know more than we do.

So why do our characters usually understand exactly what is going on in a situation and what they feel?

I think it is important to let your characters not know who they are, even through to the end. It’s life. Books reflect life; what we’re most afraid of, what we want to be, and what we never wanted to see.

We want to make our characters larger than life, I understand that. But, we should do horrible things to them. Then, let them overcome these things; or succumb. It is all life. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you can’t tell the difference. The same should hold true in books.

If a character can legitimately overcome or figure out this feelings inside them within the context of the story, that’s great. That’s happy. Stories don’t have to be clean cut and clear willed. The confusion, that’s what drives us. You’ll find yourself thinking about these confused characters. How could I have helped them? They didn’t deserve that, what should be done for them? What if I meet someone like this?

That, my friends, is the art of storytelling. Getting inside someone’s head and staying there. Making them want to laugh and cry at the same time. If you accomplish that, you have done your job.

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20 Responses to “Don’t Go So Easy On Them”

  1. I think I’m guilty of this in my writing, I want everything to be resolved, everyone to overcome their flaws, everyone to understand exactly what happened, and everyone to live happily ever after!

    • It’s hard to not want to do that. I know I wrapped things up pretty nicely in Abstaining from Permanence. But, I console myself with one person died. 😛 I may wreck things more in an edit, dunno.

  2. Me too Vanessa. I want everything neatly pressed, folded and in its drawer by the end. lol

  3. That’s where serials come in. Perhaps a character never fixes something, but that doesn’t mean he or she can’t grow over the course of several books or stories.

  4. This is a great post. I really like to fly by the seat of my pants when I write, but in the longer story I’m writing – one that may be a book (I don’t want to for sure call it a book and curse the Muse! Too much performance pressure, you know . . . lol), I’m finding I haven’t done much of pondering on this type of confusion, that I’m aware of anyway. I’m glad you posted on this idea. Because you are right. That is real life and will ultimately lead to realism in characters and situations.

    • I’m a panster too, usually 🙂 So I get what you mean. Don’t worry so much at first. Let the words come, and change them later.

  5. If things work out too easily for the protagonist then one misses loads of opportunities for weeping and wailing and the gnashing of teeth.

    For example, I have just had a good NaNo day. My day was good, but, our heroine? Not so much! She was stubborn (in a good cause) and manipulated people to go in a certain way. Today it all went wrong for those around her…

    She will be wrestling with those demons for the rest of the series and will only come to accept that not everyone can live in book 5.

    In my original plan I had Shara convince the leader, Cynebeald, to go on, but it was only during the writing that I realised that this was too easy. Shara has to be sneaky (as I say, in a good cause) so that she can take on the blame for everything that goes wrong. If she could just suggest something and Cynebeald goes along, then there is less blame for her…

    Isn’t it terrible how nasty one can be when writing? 🙂

    • We may be the nicest people in the world… as long as you aren’t in our novel, right? I know my protag for my pretty-much-abandoned nano novel was a complete JERK. In the last scene I wrote he slept with some random girl, left her in her dorm and went on. She was pretty scared of sleeping with him in the first place but tried to make herself.

      Oh, did I mention he was engaged at the time?

  6. Very interesting post. I will have to ponder that!

  7. My characters in the novel for NaNoWriMo have amnesia, does that count? 🙂

  8. Haha, most of my characters are pirates… They’ve all got issues, none of them are polished and they get angry and break things when they drink. They honestly spend most of the time trying to work out the best way out of their previous mistake and sometimes (sometimes), they all live happily ever after. ;D

  9. Good reminders here. We want to make sure any resolutions that occur are not contrived or forced upon the story–that they are natural and logical. I thin it is still important to come full circle, but sometimes recognizing and surrendering to the conflict is what a character needs to do to finish their story.

  10. Great post – we do need to get into our character’s heads but unfortunately, they also get into our heads and pop up when they shouldn’t – what the best way to get rid of a character out of your head when you are supposed to be concentrating on something else – anybody?

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