February 14, 2012

Love Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry (To Our Characters)

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Creative Director Gary Fearon is honored to relinquish Tune-In Tuesday to a mystery writer whose books you’ll love, Elizabeth S. Craig.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

We all love our characters. What’s not to love? They start out as our own creations, then suddenly come to life on the page. They’re our very own Pinocchios.

But loving our characters means hurting our characters. Otherwise, there just wouldn’t be a story for them.  Who’d read a book where the characters happily go from beginning to end with no problems to overcome or challenges to face?

Let’s take it from our characters’ point of view. What makes our characters happiest? My guess is having more adventures. And the best way to ensure they have more adventures is by writing books that readers love and want more of—books that aren’t boring. Our characters need setbacks.

Great ways to mess up our characters’ lives (at least temporarily):

Big problems:  Depending on your genre, this could mean a murder, a crippling addiction, the end of the world, or the death of a loved one.

Medium-sized problems:  What other trouble can we toss in our characters’ way?  How about a job loss, an aging parent moving in with them, or an unexpected medical issue?

Smaller problems:  To create tension in every scene, we can also build in smaller conflicts—characters who rub our protagonist the wrong way, flat tires, and arguments with friends or spouses.

Remember, we’re doing these things for our characters’ own good.  We’re ensuring they live to fight another day…loving them enough to make them suffer.  Because, for writers, love means never having to say you’re sorry.

Elizabeth’s latest book, Hickory Smoked Homicide, released November 1, 2011.  Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink and independently. She blogs daily at Mystery Writing is Murder

Follower her on Twitter.

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