Earlier this week I hopped up onto my soap box and ranted about being mean to characters. I am going to continue along that vein. Although I’m not bringing out the actual box this time, because it’s small, and I get excited and when I throw my arms out in a moment of particular passion, I lean dangerously to one side. Plus, even on the stupid box I’m still not very tall, so I’ve decided to sit here on my comfy couch and type. I can rant from here. Trust me.
I’ve been reading a book.
Hey, don’t look at me like that. I do read books. Yes, without pictures. Sheesh.
What was I saying? Ah yes, the book. It’s a good book—so far I like the characters and they plot is full of fun and adventure and even a little bit of romance. Go author of said book.
Anyway, about half-way through the story the main character comes face to face with his greatest fear.
Literally face to face with the most terrifying thing that this poor character could possibly have ran in to.
I was excited. (Please don’t bother with the gasps of appalled surprise.) Here it was, the perfect place to be mean to a character! I was like, “How is he going to handle this? Will he run? Will he do it to help the others? Will he cry like a little girl? Scream? Let everyone down?” There were so many possibilities!
I hunkered down into the couch, brought the Kindle closer to my face, and read.
About ten seconds later, I blinked, went back and read again.
Sure enough, I hadn’t read it wrong.
The character, when faced with the most terrifying thing in their life—a scared since childhood sort of thing—had two lines of inner dialogue adding up to “I guess I’d better do this,” and that was that.
The perfect place for a character to fail, which would have added so much depth to the story, and the author breezes over it with nothing more than two lines of thought.
I’m still sad about it. And as I’m pounding out my outline and rough draft of my work in progress, I have vowed anew to be as mean to my characters as I can. Make them face fears, let them fail, let them live with consequences and figure out how to redeem themselves.
I need to make myself a sign that says:
“What’s the worst thing that could happen right now?”
I’ll hang it next to my computer and glance up at it when I’m being too nice as an author.
I’ll also have to take down the snide remarks that my husband will surely put up; things like “zombie apocalypse, alien invasion, Dr. Pepper shortage” and one that I refuse to put on my blog.
Boys are so strange.
Anyway, if you’re an author, don’t let those characters off easy! Go broader, go deeper—keep them jumping. And how they react will make them even more memorable in the reader’s minds.
Okay, everyone, go #BeMeanToCharacters !