Wednesday, October 23, 2013

An observation on being mean to my characters

I can tell when I've really pushed the envelope of my own boundaries as far as what I'm willing to do to a character. I will actually have a hard time facing up to it, for some weeks. I might find myself shying away from writing details. And what I do write is generally the character going through grief reactions: shame, anger, self-pity, etc.

Eventually I will realize I have worked it out, and then I have to go back in and add strength to the character. Nobody wants to read a bunch of crying, lashing out, pity and horror without at least a good dollop of fortitude. But sometimes I need time to find that fortitude myself.

It's a good illustration, to me, of how stories help us to learn how to cope with being human.


  1. I loved the ways that you dealt with this in Magic Under Stone. Both Erris and Ifra suffer in ways that are unlike anything the reader could experience, but their reactions make it real. The cold water running through Erris' clockwork body is a chilling detail, and then the way he starts avoiding people and goes quiet around Nimira, plus the few things he does tell her, show that he's miserable but trying to be stoic. It hints at, but doesn't straight-up reiterate, all the terrible things he's been through and is going through and how dark his thoughts must be. And it broke my heart when Ifra was ordered not to speak or write, mostly because of how he reacts to being trapped in his own head.

    It impressed me how differently the characters reacted to trauma. They seem even more different because we see Erris' emotions only insomuch as Nimira sees them, but we get Ifra's from inside his head. Good job with both! :)

    (Yeah, I really like Magic Under Stone, haha.)

    1. What a lovely comment! It's always so nice to hear from people who appreciate the work afterward. I haven't been thinking about Magic Under Stone much, mired as I am in this new project, but I remember both those things you mentioned being very hard to write at the time as well.

      Apparently all my books are about finding horrible things to do to these poor characters...