I’m a nice person. I’m kind to old people. Babies and children have a huge home in my heart and I regularly sneak into pet shops to ooo and aaaah over puppies and kittens. So when it comes to being mean to my characters? I find it hard.
Sweet and kind, a bestseller does not make!
So what do we writers do? We weave a giant character flaw into the make-up of our protagonist. Then we line up the challenges… each more wicked than the one before… all aimed at that tender spot. Stack up the odds, make the goal more than impossible. We pluck their heartstrings like a mournful violin because that is what keeps our book glued into the reader’s hands and carves our words onto their hearts.
Have you ever wondered why that formula works?
- We as humans take courage in the courage of others. It feeds that place in us that says – get up, keep moving, you can do this! Whatever your ‘this’ may be… proposing to your beloved, picking up dog poo on the lawn, facing another round of chemo.
- Seeing someone overcome their fears makes us brave.
- A well-constructed fictional character comes alive inside the reader. Who wouldn’t want to see your friend overcome?
So nice writers dig deep and get mean because in our heart of hearts we know that our protag has it inside to rise to the challenge, to overcome, to grow! Why? Because we made them that way. Much like God sees us.
How about you? Do your character’s troubles get you in a knot, or do you rub your hands gleefully with every added landmine?