You must not be kind.
If you wish to write, if you wish your characters to have dramatic stories, if they must overcome, you must not be kind to them.
Authors must be cruel, calculating beasts that tear down their main characters. Leave them sobbing on the ground. Make them beg for mercy.
Well, then your characters fight back. They grow stronger. They overcome.
And in the end, your story is stronger.
Sometimes this can be hard. If you’ve created a character out of syllables, they’re very much like your child. You control their entire world. Who will they encounter? What strengths do they exhibit? What wonders will they encounter? You may wish to protect your fledgling character.
Kick that character out of the nest. Let it flutter to the ground.
A story where nothing bad ever happens is boring. Your character may be safe, but they won’t be interesting. Your writing will be boring. And the only thing worse than a bad book is a boring one.
Dragons of the Ashfall begins when Patty loses her parents. Her life only gets worse from there. She finds a new family in the other orphans, but she also finds incredible guilt. She tries to make things right, only to make things worse.
Oh, and then she finds a dragon. Yes, there is wonder.
But not all is well. The dragon might be her chance to escape, but it also brings with it terrible choices. She could finally fight back against the system that’s crushed her! But if she does, will it cause even more people to suffer?
I am not kind to Patty. She gets beat up… well, a lot.
But what is the other option?
I could give Patty a posh life in Londinium. Maybe she’s a child of the Gear, the ruling council. She has a great life, and then finds a dragon, and that makes her life even better!
But what would she overcome, then?
Every story needs conflict. And if you’re a writer, that means it’s up to you to generate that conflict. For Dragons of the Ashfall, Patty faces so many conflicts. She faces her own guilt. She has to determine how to use power. The system is stacked against her. Even her fellow orphans end up fighting her!
Now, a writer does have to be careful. Yes, there must be conflict, but how will your story end? Perhaps you’re writing a tragedy and the conflict will break your main character. That’s not what I’m aiming for. I wanted Patty pushed to the limit and even beyond, but to overcome. I want the reader cheering when she finally wins.
Did I succeed?
Well, I guess you’ll have to read it to find out!
But if you’re writing, let me encourage you: Don’t be kind to your main character. Be cruel. Let them overcome.
Dragons of the Ashfall is available now!