There's a line in the movie Galaxy Quest that prompted this. If you haven't ever seen Galaxy Quest, this is a travesty that should be remedied immediately. I quote from it from time to time because a) it is so very quotable and b) it is full of good writery things. *adds "writery" to dictionary*
For those who may not have seen Galaxy Quest, the story is based around these burned out actors who are super popular for acting on a Star Trek-like show fifteen years earlier. What they don't know is that these aliens have been watching their old show from outer space and think they are "historical documents," so when they run into trouble, they go to these actors for help fighting their space battle. Anyway, the aliens recreate the ship from the show, down to the last detail.
And that brings me to this scene where two of the characters have to go through this crazy obstacle course thing in the ship and one of them is all like "Why is this here?" and the other one goes, "It was in the show!" and the first character says, "Whoever wrote this episode should die!"
How many times must our characters feel this way? Arguing with us, dealing with all of the crap we throw at them, the trauma and misery. Emotional upheaval, physical pain--and we assure them that it's okay, they'll get through it. Or in the case of a tragedy, maybe we assure them it's okay, they'll be out of their misery before long.
I used to be known as the "nice writer" in my writing group. I'm all for happily-ever-afters and romance and letting characters have hope and all that lovely stuff. It doesn't mean I don't put them through the wringer first, but apparently after I wrote one of my last novels, I became the author who was capable of doing anything to a character. Want some physical trauma? Here you go, character, have that. And that. And then that. And here's your emotional trauma on the side. Yep, you'll be dealing with that for the next twelve years. Oh, look, I found some more problems for you!
It's a wonder some of my characters even speak to me anymore.
I want there to be character conflict. Conflict--inner or outer conflict--propels the story onward. Some of my characters and stories just get more intense conflict than others.
Do you have a character that you're sure must hate you because of everything you put him/her through?
Or do you have trouble giving your characters conflict to work through? Do you want to protect them and keep them in a bubble because you can't bear the thought of doing harm to them? If so, how do you work past that?
What do you do to cause your characters conflict?