We all go through it either psychologically, emotionally, or physically. A lot of times it can end up being all three. No one shares their agony exactly in the same way as another because of our different personalities, upbringing, experiences, and perspectives. But, we all deal with pain. None of us are free from it.
As you’re writing, your character or characters will always have something in one of these areas that they’re striving to get through. Trying to understand and process. They may be searching out who they are, and maybe because of their upbringing, or culture, this search causes them a great deal of affliction, going outside the grain of figuring those pieces out. Maybe the loss of someone they love has greatly affected their worth, will, drive, or purpose for existence. Or physically, an illness they feel is so intense that even getting up to take a shower is too much to handle. Each area can weaken your characters spirit and heart.
Readers want to keep reading because pain is a universal thing, even if they don’t completely relate to what that character’s dealing with. They want to root for them. The readers feel the agony and have empathy on how much this space hurts the characters deeply and they want to be there to push them forward.
The hero’s journey for our characters is constant movement within that anguish. Getting to the next step which can be more intense, scary, hard, and worse before it gets better. Our character will want to leave, but they’ll have to make the hard choice to face it and keep going through the storm. By doing so . . . some answers, lessons, and moments will define them.
Here’s a few examples from some of my favorite books. There’s no spoilers on endings!
The character Hazel Grace Lancaster, from Fault in Our Stars, is a seventeen-year-old who has thyroid cancer. It’s started to spread into her lungs, so to breathe properly, she uses a portable oxygen tank. Hazel feels suffering day in and day out. She wants to be understood. To appease her mother, she decides to attend a cancer patients’ support group and meets a teenage boy named Augustus Waters. They begin to build a friendship and she finds out he had osteosarcoma, but had his leg amputated and is cancer free. With their friendship they’re able to help each other with the struggles they both face.
In Shutter Island, Teddy Daniels, is devastated by the loss of his wife which took place in a fire. The grief he feels messes with him both emotionally and psychologically, sending him spirally to look for answers about his wife’s death and his own sanity. He wants truth and answers. The story makes you question the depth of this man’s sorrow and wonder where his heads at, but you’re rooting for him to figure it out.
In Wonder, August Pullman, also known as Auggie has “mandibulofacial dysostosis” a rare facial deformity. Surgery is not uncommon for him as he’s had (27) of them. Auggie’s been homeschooled by his mom for eleven years, so when he’s enrolled to go to 5th grade, in a public school, pain and fear of being different sets in. He wants to be accepted and liked. Auggie goes to school anyways and faces the unknown each day.
What hardship is your character dealing with?
Is it physical, mental, or emotional? All of them?
What would your character/characters have to do to face that pain? The next step forward?
What is one thing that your character really wants and is in search for?
- Hazel wants to be understood/friendship.
- Teddy wants truth and answers.
- Auggie wants to be accepted and liked as he is.
For fun and research go through some of your favorite movies and establish what the characters ultimate affliction and want/need (goal) is. Or, even think about your own life story, a friend’s, or a family member. How has their pain/ struggle made them tick? React? How have they handled it?
Now, go write that novel. Bring all the raw emotion in so the reader is sucked into feeling it all right along with your character.
Lauri Schoenfeld’s first love is her little clan of three silly kidlets and her wonderful hubby, Andy. Writing is a close second. She began writing poems at the age of nine, and her love for literature and music developed into composing thirty songs. In 2014 her short story, Christmas Treasure, was featured in an anthology called, Angels from their Realms of Story. Her favorite genre to write is anything dark, psychological, and suspenseful, but she enjoys expanding her horizons and dipping her feet in other genres as well. Lauri teaches summer writing classes for kids and mentors teens throughout the year. She’s a Child Abuse and Scoliosis Survivor. Lauri runs a group for teen girls with Scoliosis called, The S Squad. Their motto is Strength, Support and Self Confidence. She’s been known to dance around the house with a spoon as her microphone and sneak toppings from the ice cream bar. Lauri’s taken online classes at the Institute of Children’s Literature and was the President of the League of Utah Writers, Oquirrh Chapter for two years. She’s a member of Crime Writers and International Thriller Writers.