Friday, February 4, 2011

Weathering the storm

With the snowpocalypse attacking at least half of our nation (and also ice and freezing cold temperatures and just crazy winter weather hitting at least another third of it), it got me thinking. Not just about how much I wish Spring were here (as you could tell by my previous post), but about our characters. You know, the ones in the books we're writing. (Well, I'm assuming most of the people who read my blog are writing/have written books.)

What do these horrible storms have to do with our characters? Everything. Sort of. Okay, hang in there with me and I'll try to explain.

I asked you on Monday: what makes you love a book? For some it is the characters. For others it's really good writing, or a great, fast-paced plot. No matter what facet of a book makes you fall in love with it, I'd say (and hopefully you'll agree), that any book is only as good as its snowpocalypse. Huh? What is she rambling about now... ? And how are you supposed to add a blizzard to you book, when you're writing a story set in a tropical climate where it doesn't snow? I'm not talking about adding an actual storm to your book. I'm talking about that thing that nearly every great book has--the ultimate, shocking, horrifying, unexpected, gut-twisting "storm" the MC has to get through or overcome or survive and grow stronger from to reach the conclusion of the book. Is my strange, meandering thought process becoming clearer now? I'm talking about the trial or catastrophe or test or whatever you want to call it that gives the book it's driving force. In Harry Potter, every book had a huge confrontation at the end, usually ending up in someone's death. They tended to get progressively more intense, more powerful, and more all-encompassing as the series went on. The stakes were raised higher and higher. And every time you raise those stakes higher, (make the obstacle/trial/whatever it is harder and more unbelievably difficult to survive) the more the reader is going to care about what happens.

If your MC is trying to drive home in a mild blizzard, and is somewhat nervous, but hey, the roads are salted and it's not too bad... well, eh. That's okay and all, I guess. Kind of a yawn-fest. But if your MC is caught in the worst blizzard in decades, that covers half a country, and strands thousands on a major highway with snow drifts burying their cars in a matter of a few hours... Whoa. Now that's going to grab your attention and keep it. See what I mean? Make your characters have to weather some storms -- and if possible, make those storms snowpocalypses.

9 comments:

Shari said...

Excellent thoughts. It's so true. The more your character has to deal with and overcome, the more you care and root for him/her. Maybe Mattie needs more storm. I'll have to think on that.

R.S.J. said...

As the creators of our characters, it is our sacred duty to put them through hell. It's what they want.

Jen Daiker said...

I love how you made this storm into your post. This is so cool!!! I loved this post. It's important to give our characters something to work for. Snowpocalypse is something worth adding.

Happy Friday!

Elle Strauss said...

Yes, very good point. and the storm might be external or internal, but there needs to be a storm. Great post! Now, let's move on to spring inspired themes, shall we?

thepadixons said...

Great post, Sara. It really is the snowpocalypse's that make us give up good rest, clean houses, etc. because we just can't put it down until we know what happens. Now give us a post on how to build that into our stories!

ali said...

Ha! The snowpocalypse! Love it!

And who knew you could take a lesson in writing from the worst storm in decades? You're so smart!

Jemi Fraser said...

Very good plan - I like it! :)

Melissa Gill said...

That's a great analogy. I need to move my characters to KC last Wednesday, they would have been up to their necks in freezing snow.

Colene Murphy said...

Great stuff! Great point!