Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I feel your pain

With apologies to Former President William Jefferson Clinton, this is what we must do as writers.

In fact if I have to be honest - I like when my characters suffer, when they are experiencing some great internal anguish, or fighting to overcome some horrendous physical ordeal. And I like even better when I feel their pain

No - I'm a wacko or anything, it's just this is half the reason we write - to deliver emotion to the reader, to make them feel things visceral and lasting. And the only way they can [f]eel that is if we feel it first.

I mean think about it - if you wrote a story about a guy who walks down the street, gets a donut, eats the donut and then throws the wrapper away and continues on his merry way, who the hell would even care?

(Okay - maybe this guy would care.)

But, if our character is a homeless guy, down on his luck and so thin his ragged clothes are falling off him. And now he's finally begged enough change to get himself some a little food. So he goes inside, meekly walks up to the counter and asks for glazed confection with sprinkles on top.

The guy behind the counter laughs. "Get out of here you old bum."

"I have money," he says, dropping his change on the counter.

The guy behind the counter looks at it. "It ain't enough, you're twenty cents short. Now get out of here before I call the cops." He shoves the change off the counter, the coins ping off the floor and scatter in all directions.

Our homeless friend stoops painfully from his bad back and tries to pick up the fleeing coins as donut boy laughs at him.

Just then, the door opens behind them, a tall broad shouldered man stands in the glare of the outside lights. He steps in, closes the door and locks it behind him. All eyes fall on him as he walks to the counter.

He puts a twenty dollar bill down, glaring at donut boy. "Give this guy whatever he wants. Understand?"

Donut boy shivers as the stranger reaches into his pocket as if he's going for a gun. "All right, all right. You got. I'll even throw in a box of munchkins. And not the crappy old ones that have been sitting around for days."

The stranger nods, takes a glazed with sprinkles from the counter display and hands it to the homeless guy. "Here you go Pilgrim. You have any more trouble and I'll be back."

The stranger walks out, disappearing into the night with the tinkling of the bells on the door. The homeless guy looks at the glazed with sprinkles. A tear forms in his eye and he slowly opens his mouth and takes a large, scrumptious bite.

See - its the pain and suffering that makes it matter. And that's why our characters have to suffer, and that's why we, as writer's, better suffer along with them. So the readers can feel it, and then be lifted up when the character finally finds redemption in a glazed with sprinkles.

Graham Brown is the author of two thrillers. Black Rain, currently in bookstores and Black Sun, which hits bookstores August 31st. While there are no donuts in either book, he promises plenty of suffering and redemption in both.


Joshua Corin said...

I love it when my readers eel my characters' pain =D

Graham Brown said...

Only when they're underwater.

Graham Brown said...

Or should I say "Doh!"

Terry Stonecrop said...

Liked, "Pilgrim." John Wayne reincarnated right in your story.

You're right, characters have to suffer just like we do in real life, or no one cares... Maybe it's a "misery loves company" thing.

Jeannie Holmes said...

I, too, love to make my characters suffer and I do feel their pain.

Excellent post, Graham. I could actually picture the homeless guy and everything that happend with the stranger. You look into being a writer. I think you may have a future in that. ;)

Oh, yeah, and now I want donuts. I hope you're happy.

Graham Brown said...

Hey Terry - it had to be john Wayne - i was going to go with Elvis but I figured he would have eaten the donut.

Graham Brown said...

Hey Jeannie - I will see about this writing thing - you know anybody I could talk to? By the way I am raiding the refrigerator as we, type.

Jeannie Holmes said...

Graham, if you're serious about the writing thing I may be able to hook you up with some people. Possibly even a minion or two, but you will have to share your donuts at payment. ;)

Graham Brown said...

Jeannie - I would love to have me some minnions - you really just a nobody until you've got some minions.

Are you getting excited yet? June is coming up fast for the Blood Law launch.

Shane Gericke said...

Wait a cotton-pickin' minute now ... if Graham gets minions, I get minions. It's only fair. And, I pay my minions better ...

Great story here, Pilgrim. You really should spin it out and see where it takes you.

Graham Brown said...

hey Shane - maybe we could colaborate - we can call them The Donut Mysteries and we can job share our minions.

CA Heaven said...

Clinton was great. He knew how to use a cigar >:)

Cold As Heaven