Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Kill Your Characters

How far is too far? Writing a novel is often about throwing the worst thing we can think of at a character and watching him squirm. How far are we willing to go? We can look to the book of Job for our example. God allowed Satan to test Job in many ways, but he didn’t allow him to take his life. Satan was able to take his children and harm him physically. It revealed the character of Job, but he never did as Satan wanted and his wife encouraged—curse God and die.

We hope to test the limits of our characters, so we must ask ourselves what our characters would think is worse than death. One character might rather die than lose his children, while another might rather die then find out she is pregnant. Another might rather die than have his wife become his boss at the company where they work.

After we throw these things at our character, he must either change or die. He doesn’t want to change. He doesn’t want to accept the thing he hates, but he doesn’t want to die either. It is this struggle between two or more forms of death that makes our writing interesting.