I'm no good at being mean. I'm sure that's not something you hear people say a lot. At least not with the regret I feel. But when you're a writer, a little bit of meanness is necessary. Sometimes you have to be mean to your characters to write a good story.
The meanness I'm talking about is to my characters. That evil streak that has a writer creating a story line that has the reader crying out Why!?! Why did you have to kill that character? Why did the heroine have to walk into that room just in time to see the hero with that girl? Why did the earthquake have to take down that house?
That emotional connection to the character is what every writer dreams of. But part of what creates that connection is by putting your characters through the ringer. Being truly mean to your character. Pushing them through tough times makes them characters that we all love, that we all believe in.
What kind of a character would Harry Potter be if his parents hadn’t died when he was just a baby? If Voldemort hadn’t spent most of years trying to kill him? If his mentors didn’t die? He’d probably be your average self-centered spoiled teenager. Certainly not the character we all know and love. Certainly not the kind of man that could lead a revolution, and have entire community ready to fight and die for him.
But more than making your characters stronger, meanness is just a part of life. Sometimes bad things happen. If bad things never happened in literature, not only would our stories never feel real, but we would cut off a major way to deal with and process horrific events. To learn from them. To find meaning in them.
This year I’ve been working hard on improving my writing (that’s why you’ll see I don’t have as many books releasing this year, I’m really trying to improve and produce quality over quantity). And being mean is on the list of things to do.
I’ve never been good at torturing my characters. I love my characters. I want to give them nice happy stories. I want them to be safe and secure. And though I have no intentions of abandoning the happy endings that I always give my characters (the good ones at least) I’m trying to work on being a little meaner in the middle.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’ll be able turn into a vengeful god overnight. I don’t see any really mean stories in my future. I’m going to be try to be a little tougher, a little harsher to my characters in the future. Because it is only through such strife that I’ll be able to create really amazing beautiful characters that readers and I love.
I have actually received some nasty comments because I've been too mean to my character, although Miss Havana certainly deserved it. I am not a mean person. In fact, I'm quite the opposite. However, when I write about Miss Havana, and especially the devil's daughter, Lilith, the other side of me comes out. They are fun to torment, and, of course, they always come back to steal someone else's life when I kill them. That's kind of mean too, but hey, it's fiction.
Great post, and I agree fully. You have to be mean to your characters to make them as real as they can be.
Good post..Sometimes I really had to do some of the things I do to my characters. Did you intend that pun about finding meaning in your characters?
I know what you mean, Willa. Was catching up on Nashville last night *** warning - spoiler alert ***
I cannot believe they killed off Oliver Hudson. Yeah, it was a shock - I almost jumped out of my chair.
But hell, I was beginning to like him.
It's like The Walking Dead - every time I bond with a character, they freaking off him or her.
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