|Photo credit: Katie Tegtmeyer on Flickr|
If you're one of those struggling writers, have no fear. You'll be embracing your inner sadist in no time.
It starts by taking a look at what you've written (or plotted) thus far. Let's say your main character is a high school student who is more than a little familiar with the principal and pink detention slips. Her problem is that if she gets written up one more time, her parents won't allow her to go out with her friends for the rest of the month. As it's her best friend's birthday this weekend, she has to behave herself.
When facing your main character's current problem, the best thing you can do as a writer is ask yourself how you can make this as difficult as possible for your protagonist at every turn.
Let's take a look at a couple of things that could complicate matters for our protagonist:
- She has a hot temper.
- She forgot to set her alarm so she wakes up late.
- She runs to the bus stop and misses the bus.
- She runs to her first period class and is not only late, but slips and falls on another student when she enters the classroom.
- The student she fell on is her ex-boyfriend— who is now dating a girl that hates her.
- In her rush to get out the door, she forgot her homework on the kitchen table— but her teacher doesn't believe her and thinks she didn't do it again.
- The ex's girlfriend sees her fall on him, thinks it was done on purpose and starts an argument with her.
The list goes on.
The point is, it's your job as a writer to chase your characters up a tree infested with rabid squirrels, throw rocks at them, then set the tree on fire and make it rain acid. There shouldn't be any easy escape routes for your characters, or anything easily achieved for that matter, even if it's something as menial as getting to school on time.
In short, you need to be mean to your characters all the time. Make them fight for everything—even at rest their thoughts should be conflicted. Then, when they finally get what they want, make the next goal even more difficult.
When editing, go through your manuscript and take a look at your scenes. Have you been too nice to your characters? Is there any way you could make it even worse for your protagonist than you already have? If the answer is yes, it’s time for you to get to work. You know what to do.
What books can you think of that have successfully employed this technique?