Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kill the Bunnies

Killing the bunnies is not an original idea with me. I'm borrowing it from my friend, Pam Zollman. She's a terrific and prolific author. She obviously knows what she's talking about. But, I really don't like the idea of killing bunnies or any other creatures.

Great authors like Pam keep telling me I have to do it, though. In my stories, that is.

I must learn to raise the stakes. To take some risks in my manuscripts by creating more danger for my main characters. I need to learn to pepper my stories not only with more crises, but with deeper crises that result in bigger losses-to avoid that unrealistic happily-ever-after ending. I must steel myself to put my characters in harm's way and then, NOT to rescue them every time.

If I want a million readers (or maybe, a thousand to be realistic) to devour my books I have to hurt some people in the process. Not readers, of course. Fictitious characters, I mean. Who would want to hurt their marvelous, intelligent, book-loving readers?

I know I need to push my characters to the edge of a cliff or two, surround them with seemingly hopeless situations, then, beat them up, cripple and maim them.

Or even kill them.

I know it, but I don't like it. I like happy endings, rose-colored glasses, and last minute rescues. But readers don't like them, I'm told. Readers need critical situations and realistic tragedies in order to be totally immersed in my manuscripts. Readers' lives come complete with tragedies and they need to see them happening in the stories I weave or they simply can't relate. And relate is what readers want to do. They want to forget their own lives for a few minutes and become totally absorbed in the "lives" I create on paper.

Readers need tension that builds and builds until they are lost deep in the world of my characters and plots. They need to see in my books that they don't have the worst set of problems in the entire world-my characters do.

Kill the bunnies. I'm trying, Pam, I really am. But can I start small? You know, a broken leg or arm, maybe? How about a coma or two?

No, I can see Pam shaking her head and looking at me with a mixture of sympathy and disgust. Broken bones won't do it. I have to pull out the heavy artillery and kill a few bunnies along the path to publication. My readers will love me for it.

I won't, however, be very popular with the bunnies.

*Pam Zollman will be a keynote speaker at the Write2Ignite Conference Nov. 7-8, 2008


Alyssa said...

I was thinking about this concept the other day. I feel like life can be stressful on its own, so why do we need to put such conflict into books? Editors say we must, but is that what people really want?

Kristi Butler said...


I'm with you. I love happy endings! Let's not give up on those!!

Write on, my friend!