Characters and Pain

This will be a fairly short post, for reasons that will become clear in a moment, but I wanted to at least get these thoughts out while I was having them.

First, I quit the middle grade novel. I’m done for now, the fun has gone out of it and the voice of the piece isn’t in my head anymore. So I’m setting it down and turning to finishing my suspense/crime novel. Which turned into me restarting my suspense/crime novel. I hadn’t touched the file in a long time, and it turned out that I had only about 6k words done (2k less than I’d thought, oops). Also, the beginning wasn’t what I wanted. I’ve learned so much about setting and character in the last few months that those six thousand words didn’t reflect what I’m capable of now.

So I started over yesterday. It’s been slow going with the writing this whole week because I’ve been in horrible pain from a shoulder injury. Which brings me to characters and pain. I used to watch House, mostly for Hugh Laurie (ok, maybe ALL for him), and stopped watching when the episodes kept focusing too much on the plots and not so much on the characters. Having spent a scant week in horrible, never-ending pain, I now “get” House’s character even better. I’ve been an irritable bitch this entire week, and I fully blame the pain. Pain really does bring out the worst in me, as it brought out the worst in Dr. House. I don’t know how I’m going to work this into characters yet, but I’ve definitely filed away this hard-learned lesson for later.

I’ve been working on giving my characters more sides, more depth. Sometimes this comes from giving them better goals, and sometimes from giving them better weaknesses. I’m mostly working on pacing in this current novel, but I’m still practicing character building as well. My main character is a con artist, thief, and absentee mother of a chronically sick kid. Not the most obviously sympathetic protagonist. It’s her voice, her opinions, and her ultimate humanity and struggle that will make or break whether readers like her or not (though having a serial killer douchebag as the antagonist won’t hurt I think). That’s a challenge to write, but I think it’ll be good practice (and I love anti-heroes, personally, when done well).

Anyway, I’m going to go ice my shoulder and take more pills. And maybe watch an episode of House after I write a “please don’t divorce me I love you I’m sorry” card to my husband *grin*

(That last is a joke, he’s putting up with me admirably)

5 Responses to “Characters and Pain”

  1. Nicholas Rose

    Good luck with your book, Izanobu. It’s tricky working with protagonists that aren’t exactly the nicest of people. It can definitely make for some interesting stories, though.

  2. Alex J. Kane

    Thanks for the linkage!

  3. Brad R. Torgersen

    When the body hurts, all else seems to fade into a very distant second place priority. I know this with great intimacy. How the heck are you able to type with that much shoulder pain? I’m dealing with a minor shoulder re-injury, and can’t imagine trying to type with shoulder pain any more serious than that.

    In terms of fiction, I think too many writers don’t give physical pain enough consideration, beyond the drama of very severe injury, or fist-fight type pops, pows, and smacks. It’s certainly not a pleasant aspect of being human, but physical pain — especially the kind that never goes away — can change or warp lives very quickly.

    Chronic pain also takes many forms. I almost think you have to experience some of them — or be very close and intimate with someone who experiences them — to grasp how to describe them. It’s not easy.

    • izanobu

      Yeah, there’s a lot of what I refer to as “cinematic injury”, which is okay, it serves a purpose in fiction, but sometimes it’s nice to delve deeper and have pain actually be a real problem (especially if the character is going to have chronic pain from an illness or some such…).

      I’m not writing that much (for me) with my shoulder like this, actually. I can’t bear to type for more than an hour or so at a time, so I’m taking long breaks (which is convenient anyway since I’m hooked to the World Cup for hours a day) and just trying to get some words done here and there. I’ve got to step it up this week, however, if I’m going to finish this book by the 8th of July.

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