March 26, 2006

Lacking toil

In short, I am too easy on my characters. I want them to succeed. I want them to live happily ever after. I begin to love the characters I create and do not want to heap incredible odds against them. Writing short stories seems to turn me into a devil of sorts, always plotting against my own creations. It's an indirect sort of masochism, I'm finding.

I'm not surprised when I receive critiques of my work. "Too few bad things." "Pump up the conflict." "Kill someone." These are all common feedback phrases I've received this semester on my fiction.

I guess reaching into that twisted part of me has been kind of scary. I've never contemplated so much death, destruction and twisted circumstances of fate/luck/evil than I have this semester. Sometimes, when I discover something truly sinister that I could perhaps write, I push it aside. I think this is mostly because I'm still not that comfortable with my persona as a fiction writer. I'm afraid that if I describe a murder it would end up sounding like a Tiny Toons episode or if someone would read this, I think to myself, could I be construed as a suspect to a murder like on CSI? Both disconcerting possibilities.

However, that's really limiting my twistedness. I don't think just about murder; I think about mistaken identities, torture, foiled love affairs and even an occasional animal cruelty situation. I think the conflict is in my head and I'm still too nervous to put it to paper. It's like something gets caught.

But maybe this is kind of a good thing. A simple conflict can be beefed up with more twists, but a melodrama is harder to tone down because the set of events is already in place and pretty tangled.

Something to ponder as I face this week of critiques...

Posted by Amanda Cochran at March 26, 2006 6:00 PM | TrackBack

It's easy to get past the ugliness of killing someone--use zombies!!! They're already dead, so you don't mind blowing their heads off... They're the enemy. So it's okay!

Posted by: Karissa at March 26, 2006 10:11 PM

Karissa, I thought of you because tonight when I was putting my daughter to bed, I found myself singing "Five little babies jumping on the bed/One fell off and bumped her head/Daddy called the doctor and the doctor said/"No more babies jumping on the bed./Four little babies..."

When I got to "No little babies jumping on the bed," I kept going, and found myself singning, "One rose up then from the dead./Daddy called the doctor and the doctor said,/"No more zombies jumping on the bed."/One little zombie jumping on the bed..."

When there were three little zombies jumping on the bed, my daughter asked me to stop singing.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at March 26, 2006 11:56 PM

Wow, that's hilarious, Dr. Jerz. And you haven't even read my latest story... I'll have to make sure you get a chance to look at it.

I hope your daughter doesn't know what Hollywood's idea of zombies look like yet. When I was little I always just thought of zombies as normal people who were sleepwalking with their arms stretched out and moaning all the time.

Posted by: Karissa at March 27, 2006 8:41 AM

I've never used zombies before. I like internal What would a zombie think?

Posted by: Amanda at March 27, 2006 10:36 AM

GO FOR IT! I would love to hear what YOU think a zombie thinks... Get in touch with your inner-zombie. You know, the person that everyone gets to reveal only once they are throughly exhausted... That zombie :-)

I love zombies. Hope that's not weird.

Posted by: Karissa at March 27, 2006 10:43 AM

That's the basis for fiction, Amanda, that "what.." or "what-if".

As for being too easy on your characters, I once read (from a romance writer no less) that you have to almost be "the Marquis de Sade with your characters"

Good luck with the writing!

Posted by: Lou Gagliardi at March 27, 2006 7:14 PM
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