Tools of the Trade

11 Aug

Bending aka Breaking

Come close. I’m going to let you in on a…secret. Make certain no one is peeking over your shoulder. All clear?


Writing is hard work.

There. I’ve said it. Maybe you know someone who doesn’t share this view. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think so. I believe there are others that feel the way I do.

We create these people, give them a set of torturous problems to deal with, and watch how they handle the ca-ca we throw at them. And hey, it has to torturous because we are forcing them to transform their lives.

When we create these people, they need to be dimensional. They need to breathe. They need to speak to the audience. They need to be people we can relate to. We all know they can’t be perfect because perfection gets old. Does anyone remember the television show, The Rockford Files? James Garner played a private detective. He wasn’t perfect by any means. He lived in a trailer on the beach, had some questionable contacts, and had a patchy relationship with the police. Tom Selleck had a few guest starring roles as another detective, Lance White. He was perfect. Honest. Respected. Handsome. Rich. The guy was too perfect. Lance drove Rockford crazy with his positive attitude and sunny outlook on life. I kept waiting for the network to spin off the Lance character. It never happened. The suits knew Lance would be a hard sell in the starring role.

When we create our characters, we are forced to give them…baggage that keeps them from living life to the fullest, something that is holding them back. The instructor of Discovering Story Magic, Robin Perini, refers to it as a Relationship Barrier. It’s a demon the character must battle in order to get their life in order.

Since I’m sharing secrets, I’m going to tell you something else. I don’t like this part. I think I am a kind and caring person. I hate to see others in emotional pain. Yet, my job is not only to inflict pain, but make certain this pain is strong enough to rock the foundation of their lives. I’m supposed to strip them of all their defenses, have them experience death of their soul so they can be reborn.

We call this the character arc.

In order for our characters to move from one point to the next, certain things must happen. If we are to have a believable resolution, we have to show the character’s growth, as well as their inner struggle to let go of their demons. Better to live with the devil you know, than deal with the unknown.

Check out your WIP. What scenes have you used to take your character from point A to point Z? How have you shown your character’s growth?


Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Idaho


10 responses to “Tools of the Trade

  1. Janis McCurry

    August 11, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    First, I’m crushed you told me the secret because all this time I thought writing was easy-peasy (British origin: A childish term for something very easy. You might say it’s a snap.).

    As for taking a character from A to Z, I try not to have a light bulb moment. More like a gradual realization. Mirroring works for me. In an early scene, the character might take an action or make a judgment and later in the book, the same character takes a different action that is better, and thus shows growth.

    • lynn mapp

      August 11, 2011 at 8:41 PM

      Oh…once you put it like that…makes it sound easy. Maybe I was wrong, not.

  2. Liz Fredericks

    August 11, 2011 at 7:14 AM

    So, three things – I finally learned how I managed to post a little like picture on a blog. Thank you for that. Second, aren’t we happy that the network people didn’t give up on Tom Selleck just because he offered a ‘too-perfect’ character. The man’s eyes . . . I’ll stop there. And third, in a few paragraphs you summed the best of what I’ve seen in the several craft books on my shelf. Nicely done!

    • lynn mapp

      August 11, 2011 at 8:43 PM

      Thanks, Liz. You should check out the Tom in The Rockford Files. Those eyes. What about his cheeks? I’ll stop there.

  3. Peggy Staggs

    August 11, 2011 at 7:54 AM

    I’ve been in love with James Garner since junior high. There I said it.
    You’re right about it being hard to torture your characters. I always want thing to go smoothly for them. For that reason I have to resist the urge to pull them out of trouble.

    • lynn mapp

      August 11, 2011 at 8:44 PM

      You were in love with James Garner before junior high. Are you forgetting Maverick? You were but a wee girl when that show was on.

  4. Clarissa Southwick

    August 11, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    Relationship Barrier? That’s a very helpful concept. Thanks, Lynn 🙂

    • lynn mapp

      August 11, 2011 at 8:45 PM

      Clarissa, Relationship Barrier comes from Discovering Story Magic. It’s really worthwhile. Robin does an excellent job.

  5. Mary Vine

    August 11, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    You’ve just reminded me that I need to torture my hero a little more. Thanks.

  6. lynn mapp

    August 11, 2011 at 8:46 PM

    Hey Mary, I’m glad I was able to give you that little reminder.


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