Being mean to your characters

Having recently read Dan Wells’ “Mr. Monster” and some character summaries from the Wikipedia entry on “Game of Thrones” I have coming to the conclusion I have not yet begun to be mean to the characters in my novel. Granted, those are not the types of stories I’m trying to tell, but I think I’m too nice. I really need to turn up the heat on them.

Even my antagonists, who are capable of ordering the deaths of hundreds of people, still can’t manage to be very mean to my protagonists. This must change. If I’m not careful I’ll just end up with a book full of wimpy, uninteresting characters. I mean really, the only reason why any of us liked Luke Skywalker, a whiny farm-boy, when we first saw Star Wars was because he was able to defeat they nasty-cool Darth Vader.

I’m not going to run out and start writing something as gritty as George R. R. Martin’s stuff, and I don’t plan any serial killer novels any time soon, but I do need to work harder to give the reader the sense that the characters are in real danger. I think that was one thing missing from the first draft of my novel. My characters went through several fight scenes, and only one of them was injured–and it was only a flesh wound!

I need to be willing to put my characters through significant stress and trial. I need to up the stakes in my novels. Until I can learn to do that I think my novels will always be a little flat. So time to sharpen the knives! They’ll thank me someday!