Sunday, October 15, 2006

Putting Your Characters Through Hell

So I had two wonderful days of writing. 14,000 words, which I desperately needed.

Of course, I find myself second-guessing the way the story is going. I know that we have to be willing to put our characters through hell, but I crawl into my character's skin and try to feel what she's feeling. This means that at the end of two days, I feel traumatized, hurt, stressed, and exhausted.

Meanwhile, DH sits down and reads it, and laughs. Laughs! My character and I are going through hell, and he laughs!

Okay, that's not such a terrible thing, because while I'm putting my characters through hell, I'm worrying. How much is too much? When does the story start to feel darned depressing because there's too much conflict and problems to solve?

I have a personal rule: no sentence, no paragraph, and no page without conflict. Luckily, I'm ADD, and I tend not to write (or read) the parts where nothing is happening. Once in awhile, I'll stick in a couple paragraphs to give some balance or offer a light-hearted moment to contrast with all the conflict.

But, as I'm second-guessing (which I always do), I'm wondering: how much conflict is too much? When does putting a character through hell start to get annoying? Or is it okay?

3 bonus scribbles:

Bernita 10/16/2006 08:22:00 AM  

Too much conflict can be exhausting to the reader, but just where the tipping point is certainly varies.

Cara North 10/18/2006 02:51:00 PM  

I loved Stephen King's book On Writing, maily becasue it taught me a little bit more about the craft and personalizing it. I say put them through as much hell as you want on the first draft of the book. When you go back through, you can add or delete to make it easier on the character if need be. But S.K. says to write the first draft for you and the second for your "ideal reader".
great q by the way.

spy scribbler 10/18/2006 04:41:00 PM  

Second drafts ... that's something I'm going to learn to do in January, LOLOL. The closest I've come, is scrapping a novella halfway through, when it's not working. They say that the mark of a good writer is their ability to do a second draft.

I have to tell you, I'm terrified!

Stephen King's book on writing is the best book on writing that I've ever read!