Learn to Hurt


I’ve not had the smoothest of weeks. Actually the last twelve days have been the worst, ending with the stabbing of my oldest child. We worry about our kids from the time they are born until we die. It’s the nature of parenthood. Like all parents I’ve accepted this. I thought.

Leave it to a shoplifter armed with a knife determined to take out my son for preventing him from stealing TV’s. Frankly, I can almost understand killing for TV – namely some of the crummy programming (hasn’t reality TV outlived itself?) – but not for the sets themselves. Luckily, my son is fine. He’s got a great attitude and makes his mom proud.

What’s the point of this? We’re always talking about making sure we don’t treat our characters too kindly, especially, the ones we like. It’s a lot like being a Mom. We don’t want harm to come to our babies so we protect them. Unfortunately, in our fiction, that bores. We need to elevate the tension. For each action, we need to up the ante in terms of what’s at risk for our hero. I realized this when I fictionalized an event from my son’s life. I’ve never had so much trouble with a piece in my life. It was a great story which is why I wanted to write it, but now I realize the problem wasn’t plot or setting or characterization. It was writer mama. I didn’t want to hurt my babies especially knowing one of them stood in the place of my son in the story. (Consequently, I don’t advise this approach.)

Patrick’s stabbing reminded me there are a lot of great things that come from pain and misery. Why avoid it with my characters? It will make them better heroes and their tales more gut wrenching. I returned from seeing him and struck out with a vengeance. My little darlings have never seen such misery.

And writer mama is finally enjoying the anguish. The fictional kind anyway.

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28 Comments

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28 responses to “Learn to Hurt

  1. This was great Dawn. It seems everywhere I turn someone is having a rough week…including me. I think we need sunshine, green grass, and birds chirping. At least I do. Can’t wait for Monday!

  2. Natasha Hanova

    Great advice!

  3. Wow, I am so glad your son’s okay. That’s pretty scary.

    • dawnall

      Thanks, Trisha. I have a healthy new respect for the detectives in Oklahoma and I continue to be impressed with how well Target treats their employees.

      • I like to hear that about Target. Big business can leave such a bad taste in your mouth these days, so it’s nice to hear good things about a company that you love giving your money to! 🙂

  4. Oh my goodness, I’m so glad your son is okay! It’s dangerous sticking up for what’s right these days. And you’re right–we can’t baby our characters, or they’ll never grow (and the plot will be a yawner!). Have a smoother week, I hope!

  5. Lynn

    Great insight. I’m really glad to hear your son is OK.

  6. dawnall

    It’s off to a much better start, thanks. Except for my characters, of course. 🙂

  7. Dawn

    Thanks, Carol.

  8. Most importantly, I’m glad that your son is okay. I can’t imagine how terrifying that must have been for the two of you. No one should ever have to deal with that. However, I do heartily agree with your advice. Good for you from turning a negative into something that you can learn from.

    ❤ Gina Blechman (fellow crusader)

    • dawnall

      It is definitely not words a parent ever wants to hear. Patrick’s attitude has helped all of us. I am loving the impact on my own characters. 🙂

  9. You make some excellent points in this post, but mostly I was thinking Yikes! Stabbing! I’m glad that your son is okay.

  10. I know parenthood is apparently full of joy but this kind of story makes me glad I don’t have kids. I’m so sorry about what happened to your son and I’m very glad to hear that he made it through ok. One more scar to impress the girls, I guess?

    Considering I nearly drowned my MC today, right after nearly killing her with a fireball, I’m sure what you say holds true. Steel is only tempered by fire.

  11. I’m SO glad to hear he’s doing okay. Was praying for the both of you.

  12. I’m very glad your son is okay. It is very frightening having kids and not being able to keep them safe at all times. It sounds like you have a healthy attitude about it, and it is a very good point about our characters.

    • dawnall

      Thanks! I also wish I could control my characters’ behavior but then, never mastered that with the kids either.

  13. Wow. I am so sorry for what happened and very glad your son is fine. I was actually just thinking about the topic of your post the other day – how nice it would be to have a smooth day (conflict-free) for once, but then I realized, what kind of novel would I have without conflict.

    I don’t like it when my characters hurt either, but they do.

    Great post.

    Fellow crusader – very nice to meet you.

    • dawnall

      I want my life conflict-free, especially right now. I’d like to reserve all the drama now for my characters. 🙂 Nice to hear from you, too.

  14. What scary news about your son – I’m glad to hear he’s doing okay! I think I’m actually pretty tough on my characters, I love to see them get themselves out of tight fixes.

  15. Glad to hear your son is ok after such a scary experience! And glad to hear you were able to take that experience and put it to work in your writing.

    I suffer from writer mama on occasion too. But I’m very good at giving myself the “buck up” speech and then wreaking havoc on them and their loved ones >:)

    • dawnall

      I got so good at it during my second semester of grad school that my professor put a moratorium on death or – more specifically – killing. It was a LONG semester avoiding death and killing…just ask my critique group.

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