Your Urge to Protect
Study, shape, nurture, and consciously perfect an artistic vision and it does something physiological to you. The object of your vision pleases you. Your body releases oxytocin. You fall in love. A perfected character creeps into your soul and takes up residence on a high pedestal. As with all things you love, you long to protect it, and when you do, there it will remain, pristine and shining.
And the world will yawn and look somewhere else for entertainment.
Recognize your urge to protect your characters. They are pieces of you, which makes writing them into tight spots feel like self-torture. Many of them will display various combinations of your personal attributes and you will fear that ridicule of them might reflect upon you. Feelings of parental love for a character might alter your belief in a storyline. You may want to take it easy on that perfected character, spare them the pain that following through will force upon them, and by extension, you.
Take a mental step back. Put yourself on a pedestal and look down.
Yes, you love the character. Yes, it is a child of yours. Yes, you have a strong urge to protect something that has taken days and sometimes years to produce. Recognize these things as you take in the entire tableau of your story. And then torture the hell out of that character because the story needs it.
Once upon a lazy childhood afternoon, a friend of mine and I squatted in the woods to watch a yellow jacket nest. A steady stream of the little stinging machines flowed in and out of a hole beneath a rotten log. I was fascinated and could have watched the perfect little dance for hours. After just a couple of minutes, my friend got up and looked at me with a big smile on his face. And then he kicked the log. The kick buried his foot ankle-deep in punky wood. Angry yellow jackets boiled out of the new hole and rose in a cloud to attack anything moving.
He screamed and yanked his foot from the hole while swatting the vengeful insects away from his face. After two stings, I ran. He ran in the opposite direction. We met after our escapes behind his house, panting and sweaty. A sting over his right eye had nearly swollen it shut but he was laughing.
"You should have seen your face!" He laughed and then demonstrated.
I asked him (in colorful language) what in the world might have possessed him to take such a foolish action.
"I was bored."
I submit the above story as proof that perfection needs a kick to be interesting. Your characters are far less corporeal than those yellow jackets. Protecting them is instinctual but stirring them up creates memorable stories.
That's too funny. There's an energy drink commercial where one gazelle drink's his can and tells his friend he only has to outrun him, not the lion.
Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality-D.R.Sweeney
Brilliantly put. I'll have to remember this story every time I say "but I like this character so much, I don't want them to come to harm". The devil (or wasp) on my shoulder will say: "Go on, kick the log! KICK IT!"