How Many Times Can They Break Til They Shatter?

If you regularly read this blog at all you know my deep and abiding love of the lyrics to music.  And how I’m capable of relating almost anything to writing, lol.  But this is sincerely a connection I think that we can all stand to make.  I was sitting in front of the BX waiting for my husband to come out and this song I had never heard came on.  I liked it a lot so I was listening hard.  Then the singer said this line which honestly kept me thinking about writing and GMC and characterization for the rest of the night.

This is the song.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzwAXlWkk3Y It took me a little while to figure out who it was and what the song was but I did.  This is what he says, “How many times can I break til I shatter?”  Not only is that a poignant question but it’s the most basic question of what do to our characters.  When it comes their GMC arc, this is the question.  What do they want the most,  fear the most, fight for the most, we need to know how far we can push them.

The first time I went to my local RWA there was an agent there, I couldn’t possibly remember her name now, I had no frame of reference at the time.  And she told us to take what ever our characters feared the most and then make them do it.  It was a talk on, I believe, conflict.  But it isn’t always just what they fear.  They need to be real enough to us that we know their breaking point.  We can’t keep pushing all the time.  It will turn our wips into soap operas.  And that’s the very last thing we want.  So you have to know your character well enough to know how many times he can break til he shatters.  That’s right where you need to go.  But don’t pass it. Don’t invent conflict that isn’t really conflict or turn your characters into Job.  This is a pretty delicate balancing act that we do.

Try out the song, you may like it.  But also maybe try and think of that concept.  What can they take?  What will completely break them?  Do you want to completely break them?  Sometimes, we do.  Listen to the song, tell me what you think.

AJ

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