25 March 2011

Issues With Causing Characters Pain

I'm not talking physical pain here. My stories aren't generally the kind where my characters acquire physical pains of any sort. I'm talking about emotional pain and suffering.

I have trouble with this.

Big time.

It's what's holding me back on pretty much every project in my list. Well, except maybe Married to the Moons. That's just plain old lack of ideas. With the rest, though, it's definitely my squeamishness with emotionally injuring my characters.

The issue is at a particular point with The Obscure Child. I stopped working on it (again) weeks ago because I lacked ideas for what was to happen in the middle third of the story--act two, that is. Now I know what's supposed to happen, and I'm balking at writing it because it's the act where Peikigi is dragged through hell. Even the one seemingly good thing I'm giving her isn't really as good as it seems, and I'm going to rip it away from her. My goal in this act of TOC is to bring Peikigi to the point where she decides to commit suicide, and I know I have everything in place, in my mind, for that.

I just don't want to hurt her like that.

The problem is, I have to hurt her like that. She needs to be muchly depressed and at least spur-of-the-moment suicidal to put her in the place where the person who helps her decide to turn her life around can get to her. I have about 30-40k words to do this in, and I feel that's plenty, and I'd like to write the stuff out.

I just don't want to hurt her like that.

I periodically read over what I've written of her story to refresh my memory about what's gone on before. I can see that I've set things up just how they need to be. I've taken her from her true friends, placed her in a school where she's already realizing she'll be scorned, and gotten her in trouble with some authority figures by having her have a knock-down drag-out fight with an established student who is the favorite of at least one instructor. I know all the background workings, what that instructor is going to do in order to get back at Peikigi for beating up her favorite student, what the other instructors, particularly the Sabi'Oji instructors, are going to do in response to what that teacher does (which in turn will make Peikigi further despair). I know all this.

I just don't want to hurt her like that.

Part of the problem may be just tha the story's not a primary focus of mine at the moment. But this has been a long-standing issue with me. I've always shied away from seriously hurting my characters, even if the plot demands it.

I know this will make the story much better than originally conceived. I know it'll make Peikigi a stronger character in the long run, and she needs to be a strong character, or she won't be able to do what she'll have to do in the third book. I know this will improve my writing skills, make me a better writer, and teach me new things about myself and my writing.

I just don't want to hurt Peikigi like that.

But I laugh, too. This tells me that my characters are real to me, and that's the biggest step to making them real to someone else. Now I just have to accept the fact that I've got to emotionally rip them to shreds to make their stories work.

I'm kind of dreading this.

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