Your Characters Must Suffer

Are your characters in enough danger? (image: Microsoft clipart)

Every once in a while, I find myself having problems near the end of a story.  No matter what I try, the ending is ho hum and lackluster.  It just doesn’t sing.  What I’ve discovered is that it usually means that I’m not being hard enough on my main character.

By the time you reach the end of a story, you very often adore your main character.  You’ve been with her (because I need a pronoun) from the start.  You’ve seen her through sorrows and triumphs.  You’ve cheered as she creatively meets challenges you’ve thrown in her path.

Sometimes, we like our characters too much.  And, just when things should be getting really bad, we pull our punches.  Instead of raising the stakes even higher and putting her in even greater peril, we hesitate.  We veer onto a less dark path.  We chicken out.

In the middle grade that I’m rewriting, my character does something that may mean he will get held back for a year or, even worse in his eyes, pulled from sports.  Now, he meets the goals that the adults have set for him but he does something pretty darn awful in the process.   There have to be repercussions, but I have to admit that I haven’t decided what they will be.

It would break my heart to keep him from swimming (his sport) but it just might have to happen…