Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#WW - Are You Going Too Easy on Your Characters?

How did it get to be Wednesday - again? It seems like I just did my post on grinding halts and here I am again. I'm going to explore that a little further today by talking about one of the problems in the WIP right now - and that's going too easy on my characters.

I mentioned before that I stopped and read through what I have, and I realized that a few chapters were flat. Some of that is caused by needing more dialogue, I think. Dialogue is (or at least should be) action that moves the story forward. Circular conversations need not apply. But with dialogue you have built in opportunity for subtext - in other words what your character says vs. what he's REALLY saying or thinking. It's the what's behind the action or words that add depth. I'm reading a book right now that has fantastic dialogue. It is keeping me turning the pages!

The other thing I did was miss a huge opportunity to make it harder for my hero. His arc doesn't arc very much, and that's because I hadn't really developed his conflict enough.

It's easy enough to do. We like our characters. We want them to fall in love. We resist making them work really hard for it. For my part, I tend to focus on the heroine which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But there has to be enough conflict driving the hero to balance it out. He needs to make hard choices. What's worth having (the heroine) must be worth sacrificing for. And what he has to sacrifice has to be meaningful. She has to mean more than it does, and up until now, IT has to mean everything.

Which it kind of did. But he wasn't fighting for anything. He was fully content in his life. Which means sure, in the end, he'll choose her over it, but right now - in the middle - he's not really in conflict. His life is mostly great, just busy. There's nothing truly at stake. I've made it far too easy.

Remember in the grinding halts post where I said take a day or two off writing to jump start things? I was away over Easter which meant not working. It gave me lots of time to think. I know now how I am going to jump start my hero's conflict, and I know how I'm going to make the decision for the heroine heartbreaking. I'm going to give her the one thing she's always wanted - but she'll have to give up the hero to have it. Yes - again with the grinding halts post - I'm going to hit her with what she wants most and take it away.

So you see, by thinking about it I ended up employing a couple of my own workshop techniques to breathe a little more life into the story. It's good to know I'm not always full of crap! :-)

Now fingers crossed it all works in the execution. I'll let you know how I get on next week, when we talk about writing endings.

Happy Writing!


  1. Hi Donna:

    Did your hero start the book at a major turning point in his life?

    I’m reworking my WIP to have both the hero and heroine be at major turning points in their lives as the story opens. This enhances their internal journey. You suggested this BTW.

    Doing this offers great potential for addition conflict which I didn’t have in the book before. The outer journey was so overwhelming I didn’t think I needed an inner journey conflict but now I see it really helps.


  2. Hi Donna!

    We seem to be having parallel experiences with our current wips! I've just decided the second half of my book was flat and it was all to do with an undeveloped conflict for the hero.

    I think I also tend to focus on my heroine more, and I'm always getting asked to deepen my hero's conflict in revisions. This time I decided to make a pre-emptive strike!


  3. I always look forward to your blog, it gives me something interesting to think about while I'm doing my day job.

    So, basically: IT means everything to him, until she means more.

    What is your take on: IT is something he really doesn't want.