11 April 2012

A Writer's Journey - The Wounded Soul

I purchased "The Writer's Journey" two years ago and only read the first chapter. I've finished it now and I wish I had read it when I bought it! It brings a better understanding of why some characters work and others do not. It turned out to be a great book.

One interesting thing I learned from this book is that absence of a "character wound" can really make a great hero into just another ordinary protagonist. I never thought about this before. Why would any reader care what happens to your character? We are immune to violence and catastrophic events in print and in the news, so writing fiction is no different. However, we are not immune to a wound in the human soul.

It's like reading a headline, "Woman Killed in Lakeshore Apartment Complex." Okay, this perks our interest because we want to know who the victim was, how old she was, maybe, and did she know the person who killed her. We open up to read the story and discover that this woman left behind a child with Downs Syndrome and two adopted children from Indonesia. It tells something about the woman and her soul, so now we care. Therein lies the tragedy. It's not in the story; it's in the bigger meaning of what really happened.

My main character is Kelly Cooper, a street cop turned detective. While the real story unfolds, I reveal her past service in the United States Marine Corps. She served in Iraq where she lost a partner in a car bombing. She was too weak to pull him from a ton of rubble before he bled to death.

Who are your main characters and what wounds do they bare on their souls?

27 comments:

  1. My new MC is a hot shot police officer who was on the fast track to greatness... until he shot a 14-year-old who appeared to be pulling a gun, but was actually pulling out a cell phone. He left the big city and retreated to a small town, unable to get over the fact that he killed an innocent kid.

    They definitely need stories that pull at our heart strings to get us to care. Great post!

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    1. I like that you use the word "retreat". It's what wounded souls do to seek solace while in search of healing.

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  2. Ooh okay, this is a good question. My main character is Talia. For me, I reveal throughout the book her psychological weaknesses brought on by the discovery of her gift (it's a fantasy). She begins to succumb (spelling?) to the darker elements of her power and those around her begin to wonder if she represents another risk they have to get rid of. Ooh I hope that is..."wound" enough. :)

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    1. Seduction of the dark side! :)

      It happens in romance too.

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  3. My main character lost her mother and feels she has to take care of her ailing dad. Meanwhile her life is going by and she's working hard missing her fun 'wild' days. Her wounds cause her to make a rash decision, causing everything to whirl out of control.

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    1. Eve, I want to know what that rash decision was!

      I know, I have to buy the book, right?

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  4. I'm still plotting my new WIP and figuring out her wounds, but I have to say I love your MC's name. ;)

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    1. If any of my acquaintances complain that I'm stealing their name I can point them to my blog and go, "Nope, I go the idea here."

      It's a great name and it looks good in print, too! :)

      The deeper the wound, the harder I cheer for them.

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  5. What a thought-provoking post! It does seem that "wounds" or "flaws" are what make our characters into real people that we can relate to. My main character is Nim, a sixteen-year-old girl. She deals with the pain of losing her mother, and the guilt of feeling as if she is partially to blame for her mother's death.
    :)

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    1. Guilt is one of my favorites. I'm intrigued already. The loss of love combined with it has to be difficult to work with, and at such a young age. Bless her soul.

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  6. This book sounds interesting... I might have to pick up a copy myself!

    My MC watched her entire family die when she was around 7-8 years old. Because of this loss she has a hard time connecting to people, due to a fear that she will someday lose them, too. She does slowly start to open up, but it takes a while for her to even begin to trust anyone.

    I liked reading the responses to this post--- really made me think and feel for the characters I'm reading about.

    Nice, Diane!

    R

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    1. Trust issues and commitment phobia are nice to play off too. Abandonment is something we can all relate to. I'm sold!

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  7. I kind of went in an opposite way at least at first... my villains are the ones who are profoundly wounded by deaths of loved ones, which made them very sympathetic at first. One of my two main characters has lost both parents, and is somewhat estranged from the man who was like a father to him because of the professional choices he's made. The other main character has a strained relationship with her mother because of her won choices.

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    1. Dean Koontz plays the sympathetic card with some of his villains too! Enoch Cain is a sociopath in "From The Corner Of His Eye" but there are scenes where the reader is actually wanting him to escape (at least I was). It was like, hey, the egotistical cop is about to nab you, what the hell are you doing? GET OUT. But, then, I go, "Wait, he's a terrible, nasty killer!"

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  8. I'm getting ready to start a story about a girl named Kalena (aka Kallie) whose father died before she was born, and her mother committed suicide on Kallie's 18th birthday. Kallie leaves town but later has to come back and deal with her past.

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    1. A suicide in the family has some really strong connotations, would pull at my heart too. One of my sisters-in-law committed suicide and her daughter found the body. It was horrible.

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    2. That would be horrible. My MC finds her mom when she comes home from school.

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  9. Thanks for sharing your story ideas. They are so varied and your characters are so injured and I think we all can see why these characters would remain in our hearts long after we close the chapters.

    Kudos!

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  10. By the way, I linked your post in my post for today. You inspired me. Hope you don't mind. :)

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  11. I love how you pointed out this crucial part of character development. If we don't care about the character, then the rest of the story is lost! I really LOVE your character's weakness because it is an aching reality of our times! I finally the first fictional story I want to write and my character has a big flaw - it's the main point of the story - she is suffering from her own murder. But I'll leave it at that for now! Thanks for your great insight again!

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    1. Suffering from her own murder? I'm totally intrigued! Good one. I'm thinking she's psychic (suspense/thriller) or has been reincarnated (mystery).

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  12. Great post. I had never heard of this book before, and now I will need to add it to my list! Thanks. :)

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    1. Hi, Margo. The book was recommended by one of my writing instructors at Gotham Writer's Workshop. Every character has a story, sure. But which ones do you remember?

      I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. Oops--sorry about the deletion. Made a typo. :-o

    Great post, Diane! I believe in this advice wholeheartedly. For me, it's what differentiates a good or interesting character from a great, memorable one.

    I don't like, or sympathize with, perfect people--or people who 'think' they're perfect, so the characters in my books are always flawed or wounded in some way. The females may be dealing with body dissatisfaction issues, or emotional scars from an abusive background, or trying to find balance because of, perhaps, an addiction, etc.

    The males might have a cheating ex in their background, or they've been unjustly blamed for something, or maybe they're dealing with physical scarring, or a career or military-service issue.

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    1. I agree! Perfect people have nothing to overcome, so they are already flat. :)

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