Anaphylactic shock, broken bones, bombings, hideous bridesmaid dresses, comas, car accidents, and love triangles. These are just a few of the predicaments I've created for my characters since I began writing fiction. However, with every character predicament comes a writer predicament—I got myself into this, now how do I get out? The (often sick) twists and turns of the writer's mind make our stories compelling and—hopefully—fun to read.
Once I have a character firmly settled in a pickle, I feel guilty about leaving them stranded until I have time to tend to them. I'll wake up in the middle of the night, telling myself that I really MUST get character X out of the bushes she was blown into when her ex-husband bombed her car. Or character Y has to be getting a rash from that horrifying bridesmaid dress her cousin insisted she wear. But my all-time favorite predicament is one I refer to as coitus interruptus.
With a full-time day job and two kids, I rarely have the luxury of uninterrupted writing time. Most often, I fit it in around the crisis du jour that arises just about every evening in my house. Our kids are young enough that they still need our help with homework (and to light a fire under them to take showers) but old enough that they no longer go to bed at 7 p.m. I have to frequently walk away from the computer mid-scene, hell sometimes mid-sentence. A few times I've left my characters in, ahem, compromising positions for as long as twenty-four hours. As I go through my daily routine, I'll picture them in a sweaty clutch, hour after hour, praying I'll return to free them from the grip of passion. I can almost hear their sighs of relief when they are finally allowed to reach fulfillment and move on with their lives—and their story.
Once they are allowed to move on, so can I, with the knowledge that the happily ever after is coming but not until they encounter a few more bumps along the road. After I write "The End," a different kind of predicament sets in, one I (and my friends who know now to be on the lookout for it) call "The Funk." I've created these characters, nurtured them, tortured them, fallen in love with them, suffered with them, and now said goodbye to them. I miss them, I mourn them, and I never forget them.
Writers: How have you tortured your characters? And do you miss them when you complete their story? Readers: What are some of your favorite character predicaments? How would you like to see us torture our characters? Give us some ideas!