Ye Olde Balancing Act

Donald Duck

Donald Duck

So what seems to be the trouble?  Your hero went too dark and lost the shoulder angel?  It happens when you’re too rough with them.  Guessing you pushed a little too hard and the poor thing couldn’t move on.  Did you have a replacement?  That’s  a shame, but it’s not the end of the story.  We can fiddle with your hero to get him on the right track.  How’s your villain doing?  Not a scratch.  That might make things easier.  Let me take a like in the old chestnut.

I see part of the problem.  You took all of the motivation and controls off the hero.  It can work if your story allows for him to go dark, but you just drove him into the ground.  Now you can do a few things with this.  The easiest ways are to have him go villain, henchman, or feral while introducing a new hero.  It’s not unheard of and it takes less effort that dragging him out of the abyss.  Many people do this.  Let’s not mention comic books here.  Great fun, but those characters can switch sides at the switch of a writer.  They’re consistent in their inconsistency, which is how they last for so long.  Bitter?  Maybe, but that’s neither here nor there.  We need to fix this guy up.  What’s your choice?

Since you want a repair, I should point out the other issue.  You never gave this guy any downtime or stable happy moments.  All I see here is misery, fighting, and things being taken away.  You were going for a gritty anti-hero, right?  Well that’s great as long as you don’t go over the edge.  They still need a slightly noble goal, a friend or two even if they don’t reciprocate, or something to keep them as a hero.  You’ve had this guy go on vengeful massacres, lose two wives to accidents, and forced to kill five of his own children.  Why do you keep bringing his mother back and killing her off?  Do you have any idea what you’re doing?  Even a character’s psychology can be broken.  At the very least, your story is a mess and this guy is embodiment of that.

Here’s what I’m going to do.  I’ll keep your hero for a week and remove a lot of the trauma that you caused.  In fact, I’m going to take all of it out and let you choose the three pieces that I put back in.  You’re going to take this coupon and go to my aunt’s boutique.  She designs happy events for characters.  Buy some and have at least one with the ‘unbreakable insurance’.  That stops you from messing with it.  After you do this, go home and rewrite your story.  This is only a suggestion though.  You can ignore me, do what you want, and break this guy again.  If you do then know that I charge extra for customers who repeatedly break their toys.  See you in a week, kid.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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21 Responses to Ye Olde Balancing Act

  1. sknicholls says:

    Reparations…loved this. I used to deliberate pull the heads off my dolls. Have no idea why. They just seemed more interesting without a head.


  2. Madam_W says:

    Nice! It would be great having something like that in real life lol


  3. Everyone has a breaking point. That’s where the interesting things happen: can the character come back, wiser if sadder, mended in the broken parts – but not necessarily stronger in the mends.

    I think that’s what kept me reading Travis McGee stories – and rereading them now: those moments are there. Somehow – sometimes with a little assistance – he came back. And he never pretended it didn’t happen.

    John D. MacDonald even allowed a few of the women characters that ability. A few.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point. Though I do think there is always a risk of pushing a character too far. There are some things that people might not believe the hero can return from or even shouldn’t. When writing a series, it’s a problem if one of my heroes hits a wall because of a tragedy. Finding ways for them to recover isn’t easy, so there are times that I have to rewrite that issue. Either by reducing the trauma or setting up the hero to be stronger at the time. (Hard to explain without giving spoilers.)

      Liked by 1 person

    • A great point. The whole point of character development is that they grow through their experiences, otherwise what’s the point? Although the Teflon-skin character is more common on TV shows than books.


      • There’s even more effect of character development if one important character changes – showing the effect of change, and another doesn’t – showing the effect of NOT changing.

        Of course, change is a matter of degree. I say that, in PC, Andrew has a longer way to go – but Kary is harder to change.

        The contrast is useful when writing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’d never thought of it that way, but it makes perfect sense. Thanks!


  4. Fabulous. Nice coaching.


  5. 1WriteWay says:

    Excellent, Charles! I’ve felt this way while reading the Harry Holes series by Jo Nesbo. Actually, I eventually stopped reading the series in part because I felt like Hole was being put through too much too often and he never seemed to learn from his mistakes. Yet, Nesbo did employ some of fixes you suggest: like there usually was at least one character who “believed” in Hole, and Hole’s goals (to get the bad guy) were (for the most part) noble and righteous. But for me Hole came back from the brink of death too many times, making him almost superhuman in a relatively standard police procedural series. A hero should have some human frailties, something that make him vulnerable and sympathetic. But you’ll lose the reader if you totally throw the hero under a bus (even literally) and don’t either have a way to redeem him or replace him.


    • It’s funny that you mention coming back from the brink of death so often. That seems to be a staple of comic books and other areas, which has turned the idea into kind of a joke. Yet it still happens in comics because you always have a new generation getting into the stories at the most current point. Novels don’t have that luxury because the series eventually has to end. So you can’t keep battering away at the hero like they’re a regenerating pinata. For books, you have to work toward closure.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 1WriteWay says:

        Well, Nesbo is still going strong with his Harry Hole series even though there was one book where I thought for sure Hole was finished (as in dead). And it was at the end so the reader didn’t know he had survived until the next novel. I don’t know if Nesbo had been thinking of ending the series or if he just liked to mess with his readers, but I stopped reading after that 😉


      • Reading some of the Wikipedia pages. Reminds me of Inspector Clouseau or Sherlock Holmes. Just that he’s a PI or something that the cops need and keep pulling out of retirement.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. “Why do you keep bringing his mother back and killing her off?” Wow, that poor hero. That book would be just too darn depressing for me to read, even if he could be brought back from the edge.


  7. L. Marie says:

    Ha! Love this repair shop (or shoppe). Of course I’m thinking of the Dark Phoenix right about now. 🙂 But good advice for me, since my hero is facing the darkness and I’m wondering how to pull him out of the abyss without sounding contrived.


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