Interesting Twist On Making Our Characters Suffer

I listened to Todd Mitchell present at this year’s NCW Writer’s conference. Ironically, it was all about taking things away from your character in order to create suffering. The more our characters suffer, the more our readers identify with them. This can become overload…I’ve been down with the stomach flu the last three days. Head pounding, stomach roiling and body aching, I’ve been squeezing the last line edits into increments of 10 minutes….it’s as long as I can look at the page without motion sickness. That moving slowly, I’ve lain in bed trying to fold laundry in 10 minute increments. That moving agonizingly slow, I’ve spent the majority of my time getting caught up on Burn Notice.

As a teacher, wife, mother, yoga teacher and writer, finding time to sit for TV is nearly impossible. Oh, also, we don’t have TV…not traditional TV. We stream everything. I enjoyed Burn Notice….the first five seasons, then I decided to watch a few episodes of season 6 yesterday to keep my mind of off the rumbling in my tummy. I had to quit. We’re right back to a rehashed version of the first season. This is when I jump on my “Not another cash cow” soap box. This is one of the reasons I’ve given up my summer pleasure of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels. They used to be laugh out loud, people are looking at you funny. Now, they have their moments, but it’s obvious that the life in those characters has dimmed. You know a publisher is sitting somewhere saying, “But you have an audience built….give em another novel!”

In any case, make the characters suffer is sound advice…..up to a point. Some of us like to see our characters win out in the end. Doesn’t have to be rainbows and unicorns….think about The Hunger Games. I tell everyone who brings it up….had to end that way. Did it suck? Sure it did, but there was closure and a glimmer of hope.

Check out Todd Mitchell’s take….I think it’s a good one. Kind of a mind game, but hey….we’re writers.

Making Things Worse By Making Them Better By Todd Mitchell