When In Doubt, Make ‘Em Hurt

1 Oct

There is one sure-fire way to make your stories more interesting: Hurt your characters. They more they hurt, the more involved we are likely to be.
“But wait,” I hear someone saying. “I write comedy.”
Know what the difference between comedy and tragedy is? In tragedy, you hurt your characters. In comedy, you hurt them, then laugh at them.
Pain. It’s the only thing Hamlet has in common with The Three Stooges. And it works for both.
When you’re trying to think your way into or through a story, think about what painful things could happen to your characters. What happens to them, and how they respond to it, define both the tale and the character. It doesn’t matter if it’s a charming new middle grade novel like Mo Wren, Lost and Found by Patricia Springstubb, or The Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams, (BTW, I recommend studying Williams for superlative examples of what I’m talking about.)
We know who the characters are by what pain they’re feeling, why they’re feeling it, and how they respond to it.
So, be excellent to each other — and hurt your characters.

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