I love my characters. Like my children, each of them has a little bit of me inside them. Of course, like my children, I hate for anything bad to happen to them. But that, I’ve learned, is a mistake.
On my first few edits, I made bad things happen to them. It made me sad, but it needed to be done so they would grow. On my next edits, I told the reader how it felt for the characters to suffer such indignities and pains. Still, my beta readers weren’t convinced. Not that the bad things had happened, because they had. They weren’t convinced that my characters *experienced* the pain that such catastrophes would–should–produce.
This round of edits is what I’ve named “the deep dive”. Not only am I letting my characters really feel the pain of events, I’m putting on their corsets, stepping into their shoes and experiencing the tragedies along with them. I’m speaking their reactions out loud as I type, hearing it in their voices as they hear it in their own heads. How else can I truly understand and convey what they’re going through?
I’ll be honest: it’s horrible. Emotionally draining. So bad, in fact, that in some instances I have to stop typing because I’m so anxious from an uncomfortable conversation. Other times, I have to reach for a tissue to dry my tears. The silver lining? Now I know my readers will feel my characters’ pain as acutely as the characters do. Because I did while writing it.
Robert Frost said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” As a poet, Frost would go right for the heart. He knew about tears, and he knew their effect. That’s why we all know his name. Who am I to question such timeless wisdom?
*diving back in*