Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

Monday Musing: You Only Hurt The (Fictional) Ones you Love

Written By: Tracy - Dec• 26•11

Last weekend, my husband and I went to a pioneer-themed amusement park to see the Christmas lights. While we were there, we watched a blacksmith take a strip of metal and make a rose out of it.

To do this, he put the metal strip into hot coals and fired up his forge until the metal was red-hot. Then he beat on the strip with a hammer to flatten it, notch it and then bend the metal into a roll to shape a bud.

What does this have to do with writing? Good question.

Yesterday I listened to a podcast in which the writer said that he hated to put his characters through trauma because he liked them too much. This got me thinking about the blacksmith and the rose. In order to make his hunk of raw iron resemble a beautiful flower, he had to put it through a little trauma.

Your characters are a lot like that. If you don’t put them through the wringer, how will they change, grow and mature? When J.K. Rowling needed Harry Potter to grow, change and mature, she had him experience trauma. She wasn’t afraid to maim, injure and kill his closest friends and family. Each experience furthered the plot and Harry’s maturity. In the cases where Harry was too dependent on his mentors, she removed his mentors from the story.

If you are creating characters with rich depth to them, they start to feel like an extension of you. If you really love them, it can almost be traumatic to hurt them. I’ve written scenes with certain characters that made me cry because of some things I was putting them through. But without those scenes, my characters were stuck in a rut.

The rut is a safe, comfortable place to be. But the rut is also a place of one dimension. By putting your characters through trauma, you are making them more three dimensional. It may seem like you’re torturing your children, but it’s okay if they are fictional. They’ll be better for the experience.

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