By Miranda Birt
We’re more than halfway through this year and man, what a ride. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, but let’s be honest—2020 just *bleeping* chucked a Payless off a cliff. While we’ve all been ducking boat shoes and dodging stilettos (some more successfully than others), it’s got me thinking about our characters and all the challenges we put them through.
We’re told to make things difficult for the protagonists, really twist in the screws. Did you make their lives hell? Well, make it worse. Do they have something they love? Take it away! All for the sake of growth.
I’ve read books, taken classes, and listened to speakers who all offer some version of, “You want to challenge your characters, break them down, and isolate them to find the heart and the strength that’s been resting untapped at their core.”
But wouldn’t you know it? Living that kind of life really isn’t all that fun. Thank you 2020, I sympathize a little more with them now.
Both this year and my characters’ journeys made me realize something else. No—that’s not right; it made me rediscover something I had forgotten being surrounded by all this uncertainty, anxiety, and fear.
All the pain and suffering is meaningless if it doesn’t come with some hope.
A challenge means nothing without some kind of reward. We know this. It’s life 101. There’s no dark without light, no pain without peace, no joy without sorrow. Blah, blah, blah. It’s been said so many times, it’s almost lost its meaning.
Now, I’m not saying go easy on your characters. Perfect people are annoying, and so are perfect lives. I am saying this: if there is too much darkness with no reprieve, we become numb. Our eyes glaze over, and we disconnect until the world becomes little more than buzzing in the background.
Let Frodo take a night in Rivendell. Sneak in a joke or witty anecdote in your nonfiction. Give us a moment where we believe Beatrice and Benedict actually make it together in the end. We have to know there is something worth crawling over broken glass for John McClane.
Let yourself think of the future again.
Have some hope, both in your life and in your manuscript.
This year will end. We’ll find the new operating normal in this pandemic. And you will finish your project. We, along with our characters, have to find the conviction in our core.
Stay safe. Find your strength. It might take a while, but it’s all going to work out.
And for the love of all that is good and holy, watch out for those steel-toe boots! They weigh a ton.
Fun Ways to Make Your Characters Suffer
Make Your Character Suffer without Losing Your Humanity
15 Ways to Make Your Characters Suffer (for The Good of Your Novel)