Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Word Up Wednesday: Misery

By special request from Travener, this week's Word Up is misery. We all know what misery means (deep, abiding despair), and if you've lived well, then you've probably experienced some. Misery is actually a very important word because it makes for a great story. Like conflict, making your characters miserable makes good reading for the rest of us.

Here are some excellent miserable situations you should regularly employ for your characters:

  • Losing a loved one, especially an extremely close one
  • Being forced to make a heinous decisions that will live him or her scarred forever (ala Sophie's Choice)
  • Being held captive and not knowing if death is imminent or not (ala being held down a well and told to "put the lotion on its skin and do this whenever it's told")
  • Being lost in a plane crash, ending up on a deserted island, living there for four years, and then beating all odds to make it home, only to find your sweetheart has married someone else
  • Having an alien facehugger latch onto your face, and knowing that soon you will have a suspicious stomach ache, followed shortly by a baby alien exploding out of your middle (in other words, knowledge of imminent and certain death)
So writers are very familiar with the concept of misery. But now I shall pretend that I have a therapist's license on my wall and dispense some advice. Just because we are misery-merchants does not mean WE are miserable. No! We are happy, because we have money to afford computers, and time to write (as in, we do not work in coal mines for 18 out of 24 hours in order to feed our unruly and unpleasant brood of seven children). We have an outlet for the stories and people that swirl in an incessant twister in our minds. We are not homeless or uneducated, and we are somewhat technically proficient.

I'm thinking we should do a celebration dance, no?

Tomorrow I have a very special Thursday 5 for you - my literary nemesis, Simon C. Larter, will answer 5 questions that I spent a great deal of time preparing. I rub my hands together in glee over that post.

Thoughts on misery, and our writerly lack of it?


Travener said...

Well, you know where I stand. But you are right, miserable situations can make for great literature.

Simon C. Larter said...

As your nemesis, I feel duty bound to warn you that you will be subjected to misery as a result of our mutual antagonism. I don't mind warning you, as it's all-but inevitable. You now have knowledge if imminent and certain misery. Don't worry: it'll help your writing. I mean, look at Kafka....

KLM said...

I love me some misery, no doubt, but I have to say, I hate when a writer goes out of his/her way to torment their mc's in the interest of building drama. This happens more in TV and the movies, surely, but I sometimes will caber toss a book across the room for excessive misery-making. Like rape or threatened rape. Or rape then murder and then rape again plus a bad hair cut. Stuff like that just irks me.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Trav - I do indeed and thanks again for a good word up.

NemeSimon - So far, all I feel is glee over our mutual antagonism. You are doing a terrible job of making me suffer.

KLM - right you are, too much can be nasty. The art of miserable characters is a fine one.

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

Misery loves company.

Ah, the joy of wallowing in it.

I can't wait for tomorrow's post. The tension between you and your nemesis is interesting and practically palpable.

I see a bloggy throw-down in our very near future. Hooray!

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