Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sometimes You Have To Be Cruel To Be Kind

...and I'm not just talking about critiques.

One of my critique 'besties' was giving me advice about my writing the other day.  She pointed out that the main character in my story was too protected.  That he was living in a bubble.  I realized immediately that she was right, and as I contemplated on the point, I began to see a pattern that extends back through all my work.

I take my protagonists and I wrap them in comforters, seal them in bubble wrap, and then tuck them carefully into a cushinoed box, before placing it on a high shelf.  They watch their story unfurl, but from a safe distance.

You see I like them, and I don't want them to get hurt.

The problem is, as the author, it's our job to dangle them over steep foreboding precipices by the tips of their bleeding fingers.  Our readers expect us to bring them as close to the edge of ruin and danger as we possibly can, without suspending belief.

Because then they can bring themselves back.  Because then the reader cares about our protagonists as much as we do.  Because then we have a story to tell.

What my friend pointed out was not new information.  It's not a radical idea, and yet I had never applied the notion to my own writing.

Now I understand - sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

Anybody have a pin?  I have some bubbles to go pop...


  1. One of the best pieces of advice I've heard on this subject is to try to imagine the worst possible thing that could happen to your MC, then think of something worse, then make it a very real possibility in their world.

    I think I'm terrible at this too. I remember being the little girl watching Rainbow Brite and thinking, "This show would be so great if they just got rid of Murky Dismal." And the Smurfs: "Why does Gargamel have to be in this show?" I always thought that I would much rather watch or read something that was all sunshine and butterflies, but now I know how much more powerful the light can be when you have the dark to contrast it.

  2. This is SO true, yet so tough to do! Our characters our our babies...and we don't want our children to go through tough times, do we? Yet, it will make them stronger!



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