Don’t flinch

I’m about halfway through my current WIP, which means (naturally) that I’ve spent the last hour reading about placental abruption. This is what happens when you reach the point in your novel at which things must move from Bad to Worse: you get online and you try to find the worst thing that could possibly happen to your characters. Because you love them.

On the one hand, it’s amazing that I can ask Google to please tell me about complications in late-term pregnancy, and a few minutes later I’m looking at pictures of detached placentas. On the other hand, gawd this is going to be hard to write about. Really, really hard. And this isn’t even the worst thing that might happen in this novel.

But it’s like they say: Kill your darlings. Kill them with a detached placenta if you have to. Don’t flinch.


  1. This is actually something I loathe about authors (no offense). To a certain extent novels are escapism. I want to go places I haven’t been and see things I would never see. Yes, certainly, bad stuff is a necessity; but the worst stuff happening without relief just pisses me off. Maybe I’m just weird, but I remember sitting in the theater thinking why the heck do I care about “Cosette” this little waif sweeping floors. We’ll introduce a character and get you to sympathize with her by beating her in the first few minutes. Doesn’t work on me. Didn’t like the Dursleys in Harry Potter either. I used to love “grand epics” but I really got tired of the “hero goes around trying to get support to fight the bad guy and every self-interested git-of-a-petty-lord doesn’t see the obvious end-of-the-world danger” because after all, if they did, there wouldn’t be a story. Actually there would (or rather could) be a different and more interesting story. But authors use needless torture the way comedians use needless profanity. Bah. Just my $0.02

    1. I don’t entirely disagree, actually. And the bit about not flinching is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, because for me (and for most authors, to tell the truth) there is a thrill that comes from doing something terrible to your characters. Most authors are sadists. So it goes.

      Like you, I don’t like the sort of story in which one bad thing after another happens without relief. I’d like to think that I’m not doing this, though. The bad things that happen at this point are setup for awesome things that are going to happen later down the road. I don’t want to just hurt my characters–I also want to save them, but to do the latter I have to first do the former.

      It’s possible that I’m just full of it, though.

      1. Tolkien makes some editorial remarks in the Hobbit that I think are insightful and reasonable. When Bilbo arrives in Rivendale he mentions that it was a lovely time they spent there, but frankly being lovely doesn’t make a good story and so he’s going to get on with the unfortunate stuff.

        This is different than, “we must pack it on”. Speaking of Tolkien, in the movies they couldn’t have Aragorn be heroic, he had to have self-doubt (a very modern construction of self-doubt as well). Or they have to add a love interest (not because they want to explore love as a topic, but because it is a device to have one more bad thing happen to a character).

        Everything is for the sake of the artifice, instead of the art. A sort of “how do I get from X to Y…I’ll use tool 27” sort of thinking. I suppose if I had my way we’d have far fewer novels (and miss out on some good ones that only got done because the author was able to “fill in” the bits). But still. Bah humbug on author-sadism. 🙂

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