Most people who are trying to get better at something go through phases.
Take most sports players, at one point they all go through a chunk of time in which they work on footwork. It’s what gets you from one place to another, and if you do it wrong, really bad things can happen. But when executed well, footwork can be the difference between scoring and not scoring.
Obviously I’m simplifying, and yes, I realize that not all sports require foot work. Don’t be so picky!
Writers/Authors are no different. We have phases. Right now some are focused on grammar, other plot or description or pacing or not using the word “was” ten times per page. Everyone is at different levels, and everyone has a different focus.
For me, right now, it’s being mean to characters.
They’re like my kids, (not that I have kids, which may be why I have characters) and while I want to tell a good story, I don’t want to hurt them too badly. As an over-protective mommy/author, I feel the need to keep them as happy as they can be.
This is bad.
My husband (just got married, so you might hear a lot about him for a while) has no such qualms about being nice to people. Even real people, when they give him a good reason to eject them out of the friend pile. He’s been a good (er, bad?) influence on me in this category. As I embark on the rough draft of the sequel to New Sight, he’s helped me to be way meaner to my characters. Way meaner.
Sometimes I have to tell him he’s gone too far and that I can’t possibly do “that” to them.
The reason that he can suggest I start killing everyone, is because the characters aren’t his. He has no emotional attachment to them. That’s why he can be so mean to them and only shrug when I give him the “You can’t be serious” look. He usually grins and goes even one step farther (further? Which one is it??) into the realm of character torture.
So that’s my focus right now. I’m even starting a little Twitter and Facebook handle of #BeMeanToCharacters. Toss up how you’ve been mean to your characters today. Or the ways in which your favorite author has been mean to characters.
It makes a story so much better, because the meaner the author is, the more the characters have to struggle, and the more the characters struggle, the more the readers route for them, and the more the reader is drawn in, the more they’ll love the book and tell their friends about it.
Really, it’s a win, win!
Except if you’re a character. Then…not so much.
What areas have you had to focus on in your hobby or career of choice?