Anxiety Pancakes: Life in the Middle of a Novel (Day Eight)

Vincent van Gogh – A woman reading

This was supposed to be my day off. But I find myself at my computer worrying about my main character’s relationship with the celebrity he’s drawn in the dead pool lottery. My main character Dale Paul is getting too attached to his pick, a boy actor, now a heroin junkie. And like my character, Dale Paul, I’m starting to worry about the boy actor although I know terrible things are going to happen to him, and I’m the one who will make them happen.

I’ve had this problem before. I don’t like making my main characters vulnerable. I want them to triumph, not flounder and fail–or worse, die. And yet most stories are about suffering and death when you look at stories up close.

“Put your characters under pressure,” is common advice by veteran story tellers to anyone learning to tell a story. It works, yes, it does. But by god, it’s hard if you’re a softie like me who tends to be overly protective of the people I’m writing about.

But sooner or later, a hard-eyed mood comes over me and I cut them loose. Die if you are going to die, I say to my characters. Fail if you are going to fail! Be wrong if you are going to be wrong, I tell them. Then I close my eyes and write.

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