When Your Characters Scare the Pants Off You

Screamy is scared

I really love my sheikh but honestly, in the process of rewriting Mr Sheikhypants, he and the wretched heroine decided to go to a place I was NOT comfortable with. And no, it wasn’t Huntly (though they do go into the desert, which is also not comfortable). It skated close to a line that pushes all sorts of hot buttons and to be honest, I REALLY didn’t want to write it.

Which meant, of course, that I HAD to.

I’m always of the opinion that if it’s scary to write and you don’t want to go there, then you have to write it.  Believe me, the times I haven’t gone there and pulled the characters back, have been the times when the story gets derailed. It becomes mediocre and flat. Because you can’t trick your characters. They want what they want and if they don’t get it, they get pissy with you and just lay there like cardboard cutouts.

So, I anyway, I wrote the scene they wanted. And it was intense. And I’m scared to death of keeping it in because it could be a rejectionable offence. But it could also be the scene that sells the book. Oh and also, if I take it out, their whole relationship falls apart since they needed that scene to happen in order to fall in love.

This is why pushing those boundaries they’re always talking about is hard. Because you don’t know which side of the boundary you’re standing on and it could be the wrong one. But it’s also why you have to write those kinds of scenes and not pull back. Those scenes are the ones that can be the most emotional, the most wrenching, the ones that take your book from being ‘okay’ to ‘unputdownable’. They’re not easy scenes to write and they shouldn’t be. The best ones never are.

Of course, I don’t know what side of the boundary I’m on but I do know that the scene was intensely emotional and I cried  while writing it so at least that’s one person who likes it. 🙂

So I’m going to advise you to write the uncomfortable scene. If your characters want to go where you’re afraid to take them, take them anyway and don’t pull back. Ignore the voices that are telling you the hero/heroine can’t do that, that it’s not PC, that it’s not sympathetic. Just write it, push it as far as you can. Then see what you have. Pulling back is easier than ramping up and if you don’t go as far as you can, then you don’t know how far it actually needs to go.

It’s scary but it’s worth it.

So have you ever had characters do something that scares you? Did you let them do it?