Thursday, February 26, 2009

You're Torturing Me Blog Chain!

Okay, so it's blog chain time. I've really enjoyed following the chain of carnage wrath blog responses.

Leah started this massacre. (Major congrats on her recent signage with Rosemary Stimola!) Before me was Abi and after me is Terri.

So here's the question: What do you do to amp up the conflict? What pins do you stick in the little voodoo dolls? How do you torture your characters?

Hmm...torture. The poor things.

When I first started writing, this was really hard for me. Thus, my first novel had absolutely no conflict. It was boring. I didn't want to hurt the people I'd created. I liked them too much.

As an avid reader, I realized that all fiction has to have conflict to make it interesting. I attended conferences where authors and experts spoke on getting your character in something so deep they could never get out.

I rewrote my book.

It still didn't have enough conflict. Sure, more "bad things" happened, but still I didn't feel like my MC was in this life-or-death-oh-my-freaking-heck-what-do-I-do-now? moment.

That's where I needed her to be.

So I toyed with some more ideas that could bring her to the point of no return. That's how I envision good conflict to be. Like in that movie, Back to the Future 3, where they've got that broken down windmill and once the DeLorean-turned-time-machine passes that point, there is no turning back. Yeah, like that. You've got to bring your character to that point. And beyond! (Man, it's movie Thursday today. Major kudos if you can name that last one.)

I rewrote said novel again. I'm still not sure I've tortured the girl enough, so I shelved her. Take that! How's that for torture? How do you like me now? Yeah, don't mess with me, fictional people. I might just kill you all. Or at least file you away quietly on my hard drive. Where no one will ever find you...mwa, ha, ha!

But seriously.

I've broken down "torture" into several categories. Not everyone fits the box, mind you. (That could be their conflict!) And a lot of things are just personal issues people have to deal with.

Here are some things that have happened to various characters in various stories in various stages of completion. (Side note: I don't do these things to my characters on purpose. They just sort of happen. I really do feel bad about it...most of the time.)

1. Put her in a car she can't drive. She can't shift. Failed Driver's Ed three times. Is terrified of driving at all, let alone with the magical mafia trailing her. (Personal Issues)

2. Made one of her bestest friends a spy. Who only reveals himself when she's all alone and her only help is half a world away. (Betrayal)

3. Made her boyfriend her brother. Yeah, that one was gross. But it caused a lot of conflict. (Disgusting/Personal Issues/Betrayal)

4. Took memories that would have really been useful. Like really, really good to know. (She became a traitor cuz she couldn't remember anything...What? You're not my bff? The humanity!)

5. Killed the only witness to a crime my MC was accused of committing. (Murder)

6. Had my MC kill her friend in a bout of uncontrolled anger. Nasty, that was. (Murder, Personal Issues)

7. Then there's the standard stuff--bombs, long-lost fathers coming back, finding out your lover is really your enemy, losing your job/most loved pet/something else you can't live without, getting trapped in a realm where you don't belong, the list goes on and on.

But I find that the most conflict falls under murder, betrayal, traitorous acts, and/or personal issues the MC has. That's why it's important to know your characters. What will hurt them the most? Their loved one kissing another girl? The death of Fluffy the giant anteater? What will cause the most pain, put them in the worst situation? Wait. That's another post for another day. Or another chain. Or did we do that one already?


Kat Harris said...

Fluffy the Giant Anteater? If your stories have giant anteaters named Fluffy, I HAVE to read them. :-)

Isn't it funny how it can take such a long time to learn something as obvious as conflict = good story?

Great post today!

Sherry Ficklin said...

Sounds chock full of tasty angst-y. Well done! I have to admit, one of my favorite things to do is throw my characters a curve ball (or into a volcano of 'Oh Crap!!')and see what they do.

Sherry Ficklin said...

Sounds chock full of tasty angst-y. Well done! I have to admit, one of my favorite things to do is throw my characters a curve ball (or into a volcano of 'Oh Crap!!')and see what they do.

celticqueen said...

It took me a while to learn the whole "there must be conflict" lesson. The first versions of my book sucked rocks! I wanted the girl to get the guy right up front, I wanted them to stay together through the whole thing and never have to separate. But where is the fun in that? :D And still it needs more, so the next round of revisions makes things worse for my poor characters....but it will make the story so much better.

Your character tortures sound AWESOME :D Okay, I feel bad for them, but that's what makes your stories so fun to read!!

Sandra said...

Good post! I too had similar problems with conflict in my first novel. The only torture in that novel was the reading of it! ;)

So, how have readers reacted to the boyfriend/brother thing? Are there some types of torture too disgusting for fiction?

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Oooh, I love the different types of torture list. It's a good thing you're a writer or else that list would be very scary indeed.

Tara Maya said...

Oh my goodness your poor characters. :)

Anonymous said...

Very nice post...Fluffy the Anteater...SERIOUSLY!! LOL

Mary Lindsey said...

LOL! I actually bought a car I couldn't drive once. I HAD to have a red convertible sports car but had never learned to drive standard. Ugh. Once I got the hang of it, the speeding tickets came rolling in to add to my own personal torture. I feel for your character. I can hear the grinding right before the car stalls.

Great post. (Psst. Anteaters are my favorite animals.)

TerriRainer said...

Boyfriend her brother? Yeah, I tried that in my first one, but I couldn't get past the "ick" factor, so I revised a scene where they had kissed. I just couldn't go there!

Good thing about writing romance is, you always know it's a "happily ever after", even while writing it, so torturing is a bit, uh, sadisticly fun.

Great post!

:) Terri

Jessica Verday said...

Girl, you ARE dark. Holy cow! (And yet, I want to read more, more, more!!)

Archetype said...

Fluffy the Giant Anteater...nom nom nom nom nom

Archetype said...

Ok, now my real comment. ;-)

Every one of the things in your list read like a hookline for me. Now I wanna read all your stuff!

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