Thursday, September 17, 2009

Confessions of a Drama Queen

Well, it's good to know that I'm not the only one...

Like my fellow Scribble Chicks, I'm also not a big fan of confrontation. In fact, I'll do just about anything it takes not to ruffle any of those proverbial feathers. Well, unless it's with my characters, of course, then it's GAME ON!

Sydney Alexander, the leading lady of my last two novels, is quite a drama queen to say the least (albeit a well-intentioned one). So I have to admit that it's pretty fun writing those truly cringe-worthy moments that would absolutely terrify me because, well, it's not happening to me.

However, because Sydney is my protagonist, and I sooo wanted her to be likeable, I did find myself very protective of her from time to time. Sometimes I found myself actually scaling back on the conflict because I didn't want her to look bad, which I know is a bit crazy considering she isn't even a real person, but there you go.

In defense of my sanity, I'll say that when you're writing these characters, they are very real to you (after all, you're probably spending more time with them than actual living, breathing people when you're smack dab in the middle of a novel deadline)—and it's important to be true to who they really are. Yes, even warts and all.

And like the other ladies mentioned earlier this week, there is an art to this. All the drama that you stir up must ring true to the nature of that particular character and the integrity of the story. Basically, you can't have someone start acting all crazy with a proper precedent set in the first place...

So when you're dreaming up ways to trip up your characters, it's important to consider if what's happening (not to mention how he/she responds) feels authentic. Anything less will feel phony and will have your readers scratching their heads (or worse, deciding to opt out before your perfectly crafted ending).

While character development is an absolute must in novels, it's conflict that ultimately keeps the story steadily moving along. Without it, there's nothing at stake, meaning no one cares. But too much of it can also leave the reader feeling like he/she is actively part of a three-ring circus, so this is where the input of your editor/trusted friends/writing group will be crucial to the success of your story.


  1. I have a tendency to make things much too easy for my characters, or make them too good at things. After all, writing is a way to live out your life in a different and better way, and who wants to suffer? But I've realized that making my characters too good, or making like to easy for them translates into a story that is b-o-r-i-n-g.

    I need to make them less of an ideal character and more of a realistic one.

    Great post today, Christa!

  2. I've had so much fun reading the posts this week, since I'm a non-fiction girl. It's really helped me understand the fiction world so much better. Thanks! :)

  3. When I first started writing, I tended to be too 'nice' to my characters, letting theirs lives go on almost perfectly with little conflict. I'm getting better at adding drama and obstacles in their path now, but sometimes I still struggle with being 'mean' to my characters! LOL.
    Thank you for this post... it motivated me to raise the stakes for my characters a little higher ;) Great post!

  4. Thanks so much, glad you liked the post. :) Yeah, it's definitely tempting to be nice...especially to your protagonist, but that doesn't always make for the best reading (and boy, have I learned this the hard way!).

  5. Great post, Christa!! :) I love how you have to scale your characters back and I have to push my forward... :)