Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hurt The Hero, by Pat Bertram

copyright 2012, Pat Bertram

I like my characters and don’t enjoy hurting them, so my novels tend to focus on unraveling the mystery of the situation, because one thing I do understand is that at the heart of all books is a discovery. In a mystery, the discovery is the killer. In a romance, the discovery is love. In a character driven novel, the discovery is the nature of the character himself.

But the truth is, you need to hurt your hero. If the hero doesn’t hurt, why should we care? And if he doesn’t hurt, how would we ever discover his emotional core, what it is that he really cares about? When we discover what the character cares about, we care about him, and want to read to see how he reacts to the hurt and to find out what he is going to do to make it stop.

True character is revealed in the choices a person makes under pressure or when he is hurting or both. The greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation will be and the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature. Pressure is necessary. Choices made when nothing is at risk mean little.

In Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, David Gerrold wrote: “You need to ask yourself these questions in every situation. Asking these questions brings each scene to life: Why is the moment important? Where is the pain? Why does it hurt? And most important — what will make it worse?”

In life, experiences often become meaningful with reflection and time. In retrospect, a horrendous experience takes on an aura of excitement or even happiness because we remember being fully alive. In art, experiences are meaningful now, at the moment they are happening on the screen or in the novel. We can see instantly that the character is hurting, but we can also feel the excitement of the moment, the adrenaline rush. It all happens at once, the reflection and the experience, which explains why movies and books sometimes seem more real than life itself. Without the character hurting, however, the experience becomes muted, less real.

So: the name of the game is hurt the hero. I guess I’ll just have to learn to like it.



Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado.

When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book -- character and story driven novels that can't easily be slotted into a genre -- she decided to write her own.

Light Bringer is Bertram's fourth novel. Light Bringer, Daughter Am IMore Deaths Than One, and A Spark of Heavenly Fire, are all available from Second Wind Publishing.

Bertram's publisher says: "I was told by some other small publishers with whom I had done research that I was going to get mountains of unacceptable crap for every worthy thing I received. So when I got Pat's manuscript for A Spark of Heavenly Fire, which was like the first submission to Second Wind, I thought, 'OMG, is this possible?!' I knew in the first 20 pages that she was the real thing."

Visit Pat Bertram at: Facebook, Gather, Good ReadsSquidoo, Twitter


Marta Stephens said...

Thanks for the reminder, Pat! Think I'll print these and keep them next to my computer: "Why is the moment important? Where is the pain? Why does it hurt? And most important — what will make it worse?”

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Love this, Pat! Thanks for guest blogging with us today. ;o) I wonder, is it possible to hurt your hero too much? (poor Gus LeGarde goes through the wringer sometimes...)
Have a great day, looking forward to your next guest post in March.

Kim Smith said...

You are in good company, Pat. I don't like to hurt my characters either, but also realize the necessity. Thanks for this post! Very timely :)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Excellent advice, Pat. It's such a simple concept, yet so many of us forget that the more hurting our character experiences, the more compelling her victory. If there one. But even bad endings can bring hope.

Great article.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Pat Bertram had trouble with posting her comment, so here it is: "Thank you all for your kind words! One of the best books on writing, and definitely the most lyrical and thought-provoking is David Gerrold's Worlds of Wonder. It's geared for science fiction writers, but it applies to all of us since we all strive to create worlds of wonder."