I’m happy to report that Mystic Hero finally crossed the 60,000 word mark. That means the end of the first draft is in sight! Unlike the previous books in the series, Devlin’s story is a bit different.
He’s got issues. Big ones. And just like in real life – everything that can go wrong, does. We Scribes have mentioned a few times the importance of being mean. And I totally agree with that. The most satisfying tales always involve some emotional pain and the eventual triumph over that pain.
Normal people generally steer clear of conflict. And most people don’t enjoy watching others suffer. At least not in real life (and I know the glut of reality shows probably says otherwise), but I think the big exception is in entertainment. Movies, TV, books – they would all be booooring if there wasn’t some kind of challenge to conquer.
And really, in fiction, we have to be extra tough on our characters. One of the things I realized so far about Devlin’s journey is that I wasn’t being hard enough on him emotionally.
Sure, it was easy to throw bad guys his way. Since I write paranormal, they are often extra weird or super creepy. But I also realized that I was shying away from his substantial internal demons. And that is short-changing the reader. I know when I pick up a romance I want to go on an emotional ride with the hero and heroine.
How does one overcome this problem?
1. Don’t let your characters have what they want. At least not until the very end. Dangle the prize in front of them and take it away a few times. Again, think emotional stakes. What will they lose if they don’t change?
2. Make them earn the payoff in the end. This means, the character has to suffer. They have to doubt themselves, question their choices and reach a low point (or two or three) before they can transform.
3. Bring them to their darkest place and throw in their worst fear in for good measure. And I don’t mean lock them in a dark room. Not unless your hero or heroine has a phobia of the dark and the only way to save the day is to overcome that fear.
4. If you get stuck – ask yourself again – how can I make things worse for this character? Never better. At least not until the very end
One caution – There’s a fine line between being too sappy or preachy (no one wants to read an ABC After School Special – at least I know I don’t!) and creating an emotionally satisfying and believable experience.
What are your tips for character “bashing”? And what books do a great job of torturing the poor hero and heroine?