Torturing the Characters

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Conflict is essential to story.

If the character in a story gets what she wants with absolutely no opposition…well…that, my good friends, is a very boring story.

No one grows.

No one learns anything.

No one reads that novel.

Every novelist knows how important it is for his/her character to go through the ringer. But, if that novelist loves his/her character, it is not fun.

When I wrote PAINT CHIPS , I cried, dripped sweat, agonized over what Cora and Dot had to go through. Times when I needed to rework a difficult scene felt like I forced them through the hardship all over again. It felt like I was torturing my characters.

It was a terrible feeling.

I’m within the process of writing this second novel. At this point in my draft, my characters are blissfully unaware of what is coming at them. But I know. And I’m the one throwing the hammer anvil at them. No. A thousand anvils.

But I have to do it so that they can change. Every single one of them.

And so that my readers can know that they are not alone. That other people feel what they feel. Suffer what they suffer. And that, even when the hardship darkens the night, a bright and brilliant morning is on its way.

8 Comments on “Torturing the Characters

  1. You have it mixed up . . . Satan is torturing your characters, like he tortures us . . . (and of course, like us, our characters torture themselves with their own bad decisions–don’t pretend they don’t make their own decisions!) You, as the author, are *describing* the broken world, that they, like we, live in. And you, as a sub-creator in the image of Creator God, are the one tasked with and responsible for bringing redemption to and life out of the mess that they make for themselves.


  2. I’m eagerly looking forward to your next novel. I’m getting good reviews from friends who are reading Paint Chips now. Hope they post reviews, I asked them to.


  3. I was a terrible person and just remembered that I had promised to read this blog entry a few days ago. 😀 I just wanted to say that I really appreciate your point of view. It has helped give me a better perspective on what I am writing now. Even looking back over what I have written, I see the pain I have written/inflicted on my characters, but I also see how it is shaping them and helping them connect with an audience. I don’t feel quite as bad about myself. 😀 I think I will still mourn and agonize over the pain I am recording/inflicting, but then again, how would I properly share the character’s perspective if I did not? Now I am just thinking through my keyboard, so I will stop writing.

    Thanks again for your blog entries, they are read and appreciated.

    AKA Paul


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