As part of my new year’s resolution, I have a new schedule (as anyone who knows me at all would have already guessed). I get up at 5:00 AM, do a quick 10-minute workout (sometimes Calisthenics and sometimes stretches as instructed by the chiropractor), get dressed, do hair and makeup, grab the lunch my husband has packed up for me and am out the door by 5:45. I am in DC by 6:00 and at a Starbucks down the street from my building by 6:10, where I get a small coffee and do devotions for half and hour. Then I pack up and am at work by 6:45 AM. This allows me to take a 45 minute lunch break, which I have been using to write. I am trying to do some sort of writing exercise and then work on editing my God’s Masterpiece book.
Today’s writing exercise/sort of lesson was a common theme – making your character suffer. Apparently a lot of authors don’t want bad things to happen to their character. I have never had that issue. I have stopped killing off every one in my books, relegating it to only a few, but those few must go, no matter how much I cry while I write it.
Today I discovered, however, that when it comes to making my characters’ suffer, I am fine with emotional suffering, but I have a hard time with physical suffering. Oh, they can starve to death or be exhausted or things like that but – the book I am going through (Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine) made me write out the scene in which Red Riding Hood is eaten by the wolf, with instructions to describe exactly how she felt, what she saw, etc. etc., and fairly strict instructions that she was to actually be eaten. I did so, reluctantly – because how horrifying is it to write out a scene in which someone is eaten? Especially since you know that, in non-fairytales – they aren’t actually swallowed in one bite. I wrote it out as much as I could, shuddering inside the whole time, and probably ended it faster than the exercise wanted me to.
But that experiment taught me two things. One, which is what I already mentioned – there is a difference in physical and emotional suffering – and I may have one down, but am terrified of the other. And two, that as terrible as suffering such as that is, it is prime for description and feeling. So, while I doubt I will ever write a book in which someone is eaten, or even physically assaulted outside of perhaps being hit, I am going to work on the physical suffering side, particularly when it comes to descriptions.
And now my 45 minutes are up, so it’s back to work with that awful scene still in my mind. Thanks, Gail. Thanks.