Down, down, down

scream-pumpkinDeep from the bowels of NaNoWriMo obsession, I want to file a report about varying emotional tone.

There are a lot of sects within the cult of NaNoWriMo, one of which is the Character Torturers*. These are the people who talk about throwing tacks and broken glass into the paths of their characters’ lives the way others talk about the weather.

My own story for this year has some pretty grim opening events, featuring the death of people the MC cares about and then gets to feel guilty about for the rest of the book. I was just starting to dig in on a sequence where the tides of war wash over the MC’s village, and then I thought: this is getting depressing.

The thing is that no matter how dark things might get in the course of the story, you have to give your protagonist some victories, some crumb of comfort to cling to, or you lose the reader. I know this from books I’ve read and abandoned (Thomas Covenant, I am looking at you) and books I’ve completed despite my deep dislike of them. The Road, for example, Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic story, is filled with the darkness of the human imagination but even that profoundly depressing book gives the characters some wins.

Going back to the post I put up about outlining for NaNo, that simple W outline has ups as well as downs.

So, I have been salting the stew of darkness and horror with some good things happening too. I think the story is going to be better for it. It’s certainly more fun to write.

[*] “Character Torturers” being the name of one sect, but verb/object agreement is not always easy.

2 Replies to “Down, down, down”

  1. Character torturing was popular in comic books in the 1980s (I think it was around then), when the general idea seemed to be that the more bad things that happened, the more “serious” and literary the story was (you know, as opposed to it being just a funny book for kids).

    Ish. This also caused me to toss a fantasy series by Guy Gavriel Kay (I forget the name). It became obvious that, at every turn in the plot, the thing which was going to happen was always the thing that would cause the most pain to the characters. Once I figured that out, it was so predictable that I could have written the rest of it myself. 🙂

    1. Dunx says:

      Oh yes, I remember those tortured comic characters. Sandman came out of that time though, and that can only be a good thing.

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