|Photo credit: Cihan Unalan on Flickr|
It wasn’t that I didn’t let them get hurt—I certainly did—my problem was that I often allowed them to recover quickly and with next to no consequence besides a couple scars.
In my case, the problem wasn’t that it was necessarily unrealistic—I’ve written paranormal, straight fantasy and sci-fi, so there was always a valid reason for the quick recovery. No, my problem is that I wasn’t allowing my characters to be truly affected by their physical, emotional and mental damage. I was protecting them without even realizing it, and as a consequence I was missing out on huge opportunities for character deepening and plot progression.
I’d accidentally written invincible characters.
Humans are strong, but physical, emotional and mental breakdowns are all (often unavoidable) parts of life—and our characters shouldn’t be exempt. When we allow our characters to be invincible, we discount the true weight of what it means to be damaged. We are, in essence, telling our readers not to worry about our characters, because they’ll be just fine regardless of what happens to them.
Sometimes we have to remind ourselves (and our readers) that our characters are fragile—that it’s possible for them to break and suffer the repercussions of violence or traumatic experiences. That their injuries and experiences are serious, and that life-altering damage is possible.
I’m not saying that all of your characters should suffer permanent physical, emotional or mental damage throughout the course of your WIP—what I am saying is that sometimes we forget to consider that lasting repercussions are a possibility. Sometimes we forget to ask what if that fight left more than just a scar? Sometimes we forget that our characters can break—even the ones we want to protect from serious damage.
So I for one will be on the lookout for invincible characters in my writing—they don’t exist in real life and they have no place on the page, either.
Have you ever written invincible characters? What did you do about it?