Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Torturing Characters into Giving Away Books

Do you like tortured/torturing characters? 

As I wrap up final edits on my sequel, I'm struggling with all the horrible things I've put my characters through. I mean, their lives were difficult enough before, right? My editor cried--and it's not just because she's pregnant. (Although that may have had something to do with it...) But seriously, I wonder sometimes if tearing people down so far is just cruel and uncalled for. 

At the same time, it's all about extremes. Those who suffer the hardest blows and hit rock bottom have the possibility of soaring to amazing heights. And who can appreciate the perspective more than someone whose nose has been mashed into the grime?

I think that's one of the things I struggle with most in life--watching people suffer. My kids. My hubby. Friends. I just want them to be happy. But then, I know from personal experience that happiness springs from overcoming trials, and the greater the struggle, the greater the joy.    

Speaking of joy...

It's your last chance to get in on the 

cover reveal. (Book 2 in the Maiden of Time Trilogy July 14-19.)
Sign up HERE.



Ready to guess the lie and win a book? 

Last week, the fabulous Kimber Leigh Wheaton shared SHADOW FIRE with us, along with two truths and one lie. Those who guessed the lie correctly were entered into a random drawing for the chance to win her eBook AND two different bookmarks.

Kimber Leigh's game:


1. When she was nine, Kimber Leigh made it through several call backs auditioning for the Broadway show Annie.
2. She won third place is a city-wide Super Mario Bros. video game contest when she was a teenager.
3. While in college, she spent a summer playing Ariel, the Little Mermaid, at Disneyland. 

And the lie is: 

#3. Kimber Leigh did audition and made it most of the way through the interview process before for Disneyland before she backed out. Those poor princesses don’t make enough money to justify wearing 20 lbs of makeup in 90 degree weather, while being manhandled by kids.

The upside of being Ariel: you get carried everywhere, 'cause she has a tail. The downside, the costume is rather skimpy up top.

Annoying fact: one interviewer worried she might be too pale (she's a natural redhead) and could appear sickly to some guests. They weren’t planning to cover her entire body in makeup, just her face. And she happens to like herself the way she is, sickly pale and all. (Jerkfaces!)

So ultimately she decided to do summer school at UCSB rather than the stint at Disneyland, and she thinks she made the right decision. It was one WILD summer!

Way to guess those of you who got it right! And the winner is:

...DRUM ROLL...

Krystal Jane!

Congrats Krystal! 

And now to today's feature:

Sometimes a single choice alters the course of a person's life forever.

Left behind by everyone she loves...

Rebecca Garvey had the promise of a California future dreams are made of, until the wagon train her family was traveling with left her behind. Now she’s slowly dying in the wilderness, abandoned and stripped of her self-worth. Once the shock of her desertion turns to embittered despair, she doesn’t want to be found. Then a handsome stranger challenges her convictions and changes her mind. 

Headed for Texas, chased by the demons of his past...
Seth Emerson knows exactly what he wants. Working to save for a cattle ranch of his own keeps him busy and keeps his pain buried. Rescuing a stubborn woman from the hills of New Mexico Territory isn’t part of his plan—but she’s exactly what he needs.

Making greater sacrifices than either of them could foresee...
Seth and Rebecca set off on a risky journey and a quest for truth, each healing the other’s love-starved soul along the way. Will they give in to their growing attraction?  Or will they honor their commitments when Seth returns Rebecca to civilization... and her betrothed?

Pick up your copy HERE.

Now let me introduce you to the incredible author: 

Native Texan Melissa Maygrove is a wife, mother, nurse, freelance editor, and romance writer. When she's not busy caring for her tiny nursery patients or shuttling teenagers back and forth to after-school activities, she's hunched over her laptop, complicating the lives of her imaginary friends and playing matchmaker. Melissa loves books with unpretentious characters and unforgettable romance, and she strives to create those same kinds of stories for her readers.

She loves grated cheddar on top of homemade macaroni and cheese, all golden brown and bubbly.

Melissa gave me two truths and one lie to test your "lie detector" skills. Those who figure out the lie will go into my magic hat for the chance to win a signed paperback copy of COME BACK (US only) OR a signed eBook (for an international winner). 

You have until Tuesday, June 24, at 1 p.m. EDT to guess--and be sure to come back for the answer on June 25.

TRUTH OR LIE

1. Melissa has touched a real piranha--even its sharp little teeth.
2. Somewhere out there in the world, there's an orchid named after her.
3. She absolutely, totally and completely hates broccoli.


Which is the lie? What are your feelings on people suffering? Wasn't that cool getting some insight into the whole Disneyland experience? Doesn't Melissa's book sound awesome? 

165 comments:

  1. It really is all about extremes with our characters, pushing them farther than even we can see at first.

    I totally heart that waterfall image. Too funny....

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    1. I know. I get a good laugh every time I see it. =)

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  2. I do think we are attracted to characters who overcome hardships. We identify with them. What's more inspiring than someone who overcame difficulties and came through shining at the end!? :)

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    1. Agreed. You want to see the person grow.

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  3. There's nothing like rooting for a character who has hit bottom but who still fights back, who won't give up. :)

    Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption

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    1. Agree! Thanks for visiting. :)

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    2. YES. In our heart of hearts we're all fighters, right?

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  4. Thanks for featuring my book today. :)

    I need to take a writing lesson from you; I tend to be too easy on my characters. :P

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    1. LOL. Thanks for being the absolute dream featuree. =) It's a pleasure to have you.

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  5. Great to see Melissa here. I'm going to guess #3 is the lie, I think she loves broccoli LOL.
    I admit I love torturing my characters and I love tragic characters and stories, in fiction only of course. :)

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Julie.
      Could be 3... or not. (I'm sworn to secrecy. ;)

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    2. Ooh! *high five* Way to be, Julie.

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  6. No one really wants to read about a character who's happy all the time.

    Congrats to Melissa! I'm going to guess #3 is the lie.

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  7. I'm utterly cruel in book 3 of my Niniers series, and the character ends up mentally broken because of it. It's dark, but it serves a purpose.

    I say the lie is #2.

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    1. Oh my gosh! can you ever be cruel. LOL
      Thanks for visiting, Loni. :)

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    2. Well, as long as you can live with yourself... ;)

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  8. I've come to realize that I am a bit cruel to my characters, although my current MC has some incredible resilience...or he just doesn't care. Definitely one of those.

    I'll guess #3 is the lie.

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  9. Depends. Sometimes people do do unnecessary cruelty to characters. But I've read Soulless and I think everything you did is spot on. You went exactly far enough without crossing the line.

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    1. Good luck Sarah and Misha. :)

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    2. =) Aw, thanks, Misha. It was hard to be so mean.

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  10. Characters encountering trials and making something out of that trial are what makes readers want to read books. But you know that. :-) In real life, however, it's really hard when those you love suffer.

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    1. Very true, Barbara. Thanks for stopping by.

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    2. I'm right there with you. See, I don't read for the suffering. I read for the happy ending. True story!

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  11. There's a point while reading that I start to wonder about being *too* cruel to characters--if it crosses the line of being believable, I start to think the author is just creating tension more for tension sake than the story needs it. That's something I've started trying to take into account with my own writing, at least... :)

    And, no idea which is a lie, but I'm going with #2!

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    1. Good point, Meradeth.
      Good luck!

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    2. It's true, when you cross that line...well, I'm inclined to scowl at the book, shake a finger at the author, and grumble the rest of the time.

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  12. #1 is so far out there that it must be true. I think the lie is #3.

    I totally get it about torturing our characters. Sometimes it's easier for me than other times.

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    1. LOL
      It's fun to see people try and reason this out. :D

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    2. I bet your fantabulous at torturing your characters, Carol. Still need to pick up some evidence and verify that. =)

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  13. I don't like torturing my characters, but reading about tortured characters is okay by me. I also think #3 is the lie.

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  14. It's true we don't like to see people suffer in real life, but in stories we must! It pains me to do some of the things I do to my characters. I'm so angry at myself for killing off one particular one, but it was for the story, you know? Ugh.

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    1. Thanks for visiting, LG, and good luck Diane. :)

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    2. YOU KILLER!!! I kill characters too. Reservedly. But, there are worse things than death. *cue ominous music*

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  15. I'm going to assume #1 is true so here's my question for Melissa-- do you still have your fingertip or is it in the piranha's stomach?

    I like torturing my characters :) they learn and grow from it. Though I do write HEA stories so they don't suffer too much...

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    1. ROFL - Good question, Kimber. :)

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    2. I write HEA stories too, but they still get plenty of pain in the process of finding their end.

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  16. I just commented and it all disappeared! If you end up with two from me, I have no explanation, except that sometimes, the inexplicable happens, which brings me to torturing my characters. It's not that I want to, it's just that heartache, heartbreak and hardship seem to follow the most interesting characters around!

    As for the lie, I think it's number 1 - a double bluff: so weird it has to be true, so therefore it's not ...

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    1. "...heartache, heartbreak and hardship seem to follow the most interesting characters around!"

      So true! Very clever observation.
      Thanks for visiting. Good luck. :)

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    2. Agreed. Seconded. Copied into writing bible.

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  17. I'm going to say the second is the lie.
    I don't like to torture to extremes, but I do like to keep laying on one problem after another.

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Alex. :)

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    2. You can definitely hit a point where it's too much. I like that approach, adding problems. Hm.

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  18. I think strength comes from surviving adversity. The resilience of that some people have to overcome hardships is fascinating to me. It's the tortured characters I remember most. As for the lie, I think it's #2. Have a good one!

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    1. Good luck, Fundy. Thanks for visiting. :)

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    2. I think they shine brighter after having overcome.

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  19. I'm a big fan of torturing characters. I know what you mean though, about watching people suffer. It's not easy. i don't know how much it makes the joy joyfull, or if it makes the joy feel like a relief that things didn't go to hell yet again.

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    1. LOL. Time and perspective. I think eventually we get to that magic place where we can look back on the hard times and see what they did for us.

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  20. I applied to work at Disneyland once...

    The lie? Yikes... #2...

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    1. Thanks for playing, Liz. :)

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    2. You did? I never have, never will. Know too many people who work there and have heard their stories. =)

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  21. I think suffering in books, especially when we see characters grow and survive, can help give us strength in dealing with our own sufferings.

    As for the lie, I hope it's number one. Good luck with your book, Melissa!

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  22. My hubby used to complain about all the conflict in stories. I had to remind him that once those are resolved, the book's over.

    The harder it is for our characters, the more emotionally invested the reader is. I blame the readers. ;)

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    1. "... I had to remind him that once those are resolved, the book's over. "
      LOL

      Thanks for visiting, Donna. Your comments are a hoot!

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    2. LOL! Okay, I'll blame the readers too.

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  23. Am I signed up for your cover reveal? Yes! I just opened my calendar and there's your pretty name. Good thing I wrote it down.

    I will guess #1 is the lie for Melissa. Although if she said she had touched a mega exploding piranha, I'd have to believe her. :)

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    1. LOL - This is even more fun than I thought it'd be.
      Thanks for visiting, Mary. Good luck. :)

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    2. Mary, you're amazing. And supportive. And amazingly supportive. You rock!

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  24. Oooh, working at Disneyland would be a pretty cool job except for the 90 degree weather!

    Congrats to Melissa! I do think her book sounds awesome! I'll guess that the lie is #3, but if she did touch a piranha, I want the story behind that!

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    1. You'll get the story behind all the 'truths' very soon.
      Thanks for playing. :)

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    2. They do provide water and shaded locations for characters to hang out, but it's definitely not a job I'd want either.

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  25. Argh, yes, I hate to see people suffer, too! And yet...we do it to our characters. But maybe we just like to see them triumph eventually after all that suffering!? Loved the mermaid story. ("jerkfaces!") Wow, stranded in TX from a wagon train--sounds like a good start to a story! :)

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  26. I don't think soaring requires going to the bottom, first.

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    1. Maybe not, but it makes you appreciate the altitude more. ;)

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  27. I have a hard time watching my characters suffer too. I still have never killed off a major character, which I think is tied to this. Kudos to you for making your editor cry--that's a good sign!
    Congrats, Melissa! I hope the lie is number 3, because the others sound so exciting.

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    1. Again, the editor was pregnant. ;) Shoot. I was just going to say I've never killed a main character, but then I realized that isn't true. I've been writing for a long time, I guess.

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  28. I'm going to guess that three is the lie. :)

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  29. I like making myself cry. ^_^ I feel like if I can cry, maybe I actually wrote something emotionally moving. I like dishing out some torture, too. I didn't always, but when I realized the kind of stories I like to write were suffering for it, I apologized and went back to putting them through some crap. I can't kill them though because I like them to live happily ever after. And I like survivors. ^_^

    Yay me! ^_^
    That auditioning story is really interesting.
    Also, I downloaded the Heroes book over the weekend. So excited! ^_^

    Hmm, this week I'm going with #2. No one actually likes broccoli. ;-)

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    1. hahaha
      I love watching people reason this out. Too funny!

      Good luck, Krystal. :)

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    2. Wahoo! Hope you love Heroes, Krystal. You'll totally love my contribution, at least. ;)

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  30. I usually delight in torturing my characters, which maybe isn't such a good thing... ;) I'm joking, of course.I honestly over-empathize with them, and struggle with them, and you're right - that's what makes the redemption so satisfying and so beautiful at the end.

    YAY MELISSA! :D I won't guess, because I have a copy already in my hot little hands - or, OK, e-reader.

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    1. Same thing! LOL
      Thanks for visiting, Liz. :)

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    2. Yes. You feel everything they feel, and I think that's why writing is so addicting.

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  31. In real life my wish would be for everyone to be happy all the time, in stories though that might just be a bit boring - characters need some tension and drama to overcome!
    I am going to say 2 is the lie.

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    1. Agree about real life vs. stories.
      Thanks for playing, Suzanne. :)

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    2. Yeah? I don't want to be happy all the time. That's the truth. I like the sad moments to mix things up. Maybe I'm crazy?

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  32. Wow Crystal, I've heard this before but what you wrote touched home to me...;-) ...I know there are people who have gone through some horrible strugles in life.. .

    I myself have been through many... some were just there... others I brought on myself. All of them I learned from... I had to hold on sometimes when I was sure I would fail... I'm always so grateful once I get through... seeing the light is not always easy...but worth it ultimatey ♡

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    1. It's definitely worth it in the end. When this life is over we're going to look back and say, "Whew! What a ride!" =)

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  33. I've just submitted a novella where I put my mc through so many terrible things, I feel so sorry for her, but that's her story.

    I choose #1 as the lie.

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    1. Thanks for playing, Annalisa. Good luck! :)

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    2. You have to write it the way it is, eh?

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  34. A few years ago I attended a writers' workshop at which Joyce Carol Oates was interviewed. The interviewer commented that Oates' books are dark. She said, Life is dark.

    So go ahead and torture those characters.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. It's true. But sometimes it's light too. I think you need a balance.

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  35. I love books that make me cry...unless the boyfriend was killed off. And I love to write books that make readers at least tear up. Yes, I'm evil. :)

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    1. Well, my book made at least one of my betas cry, so I guess I'm evil, too. :P

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    2. LOL. Well Stina, we'll take some of that evil. ;)

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  36. I think it's the broccoli one. Melissa strikes me as a vegetable lover and broccoli is awesome with grated cheese. ;)
    I might enjoy torturing my characters a bit way too much but I also believe that people doesn't care to read about happy people with no problems whatsoever, or with problems that are solved too easily, too quickly with no lessons to learn.

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    1. Good luck, Father Dragon. Thanks for visiting. :)

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    2. So true. We want characters to take the long road, eh?

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  37. I think showing characters going through ordeals and showing them triumphant draws the reader in. Going through turbulent times and overcoming is intoxicating. You find yourself cheering them on, crying with them, and just completely involved in the story. That is what makes it a tantalizing read. It is the surprises, the twists, the turns that make the pages turn faster. ♥

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    1. Agreed. We definitely want to see the storm.

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  38. I really do have trouble putting my characters through hell. >_< I'm way too nice to them - I've even done "make life suck" passes with my plots, looking for ways to make things more difficult. I think I'm getting better about it, and I know the books where the characters overcome all kinds of horrible things are usually better for it.

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    1. "I've even done "make life suck" passes with my plots..."
      LOL

      I need to adopt this practice. :P

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    2. Cruelty is an acquired skill, eh? ;)

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  39. Our characters really do need to suffer to be great. Have you ever looked up to anyone who didn't work for what they have? No. But, like you, I hate to see my loved ones suffer. I try to remind myself it will make them better in the end. :)

    I think Melissa's lie is #2! *crosses fingers*

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    1. Good luck, Leigh. Thanks for playing. :)

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    2. It definitely will make them better in the end. =)

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  40. Hi Crystal! I'm not sure what this says about me, but I generally go straight to the darkest, most violent and scary path for my characters. A friend of me gave me the Game of Thrones books in high school and maybe that's what made me write like this, haha. Anyway, the way I see it is, if you're not writing about a character's deepest fears, then what are you writing about? Best of luck wrapping up this story's writing!

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    1. Too true. You should be writing about your character's darkest fears. =)

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  41. LOL on torturing your characters! Bless your heart. It's not easy what we put them through, but I feel like a proud parent when they come away a better, stronger person for it. :)

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    1. A proud parent, eh? I feel more like a vengeful creator. =)

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  42. I don't have a problem with making my characters suffer. Does that make me a mean person? ;) muwhahahaha

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    1. Remind me to never take you on as a CP. xD

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    2. LOL! Lynda, you may have some unresolved childhood issues. Do we need to talk. ;)

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  43. You are absolutely right about the suffering of our characters, Crystal. The more we put them through and the bigger the rock bottom hit, the more our readers FEEL and this is the greatest gift we can give them as writers. We want the tears, the sorrow, the anger and then ultimately... the relief and joy once our characters overcome what they are struggling through. I remember crying through one of my scenes when I re-read it for my own edits. I thought to myself, geez, this poor guy has lost a lot and still, he's losing even more... am I really being fair to him?
    But for the sake of the story and his own growth, yes, totally fair!
    P.S. I ordered Moonless and will be looking forward to reading it this summer!

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    1. Such great thoughts, Gina. I think I did that once--made myself cry. Just once--but then I'm not the typically a cryer, especially while reading.

      Yay! You just gave me super happy fuzzies.

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  44. The lie is number two.

    I have problems making my characters suffer. I like to give them a few bumps in the road, pat their heads then send them on their way. That's what re-writes are for.

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    1. So true. You can fix anything in the edits.

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  45. I have that problem, too. I just can't seem to put my characters into horrible situations. Maybe that's why I write lighthearted children's books!

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    1. Maybe, and that's totally fine. We need those too.

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  46. Unfortunately, our characters do have to suffer. As you said, the greater the struggle, the greater the joy. Melissa's character sounds like she's gone through a ton of suffering.

    There's an orchid named after Melissa. The lie?

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    1. I'm pretty tough on Rebecca, but I could have been tougher in places.

      Good luck, Joy. :)

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  47. Congrats to Melissa!
    Her book sounds awesome!

    Now - about that lie...
    Logic dictates that, as a nurse, Melissa would love her veggies, so broccoli is a must. And flowers are often given female names, e.g. rose, lily, etc. so the lie would HAVE to be no.#1.
    Am I smart or what? Yes? No? Not telling? Awww, suppose I'll have to wait and see...

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    1. Not tellin;! LOL

      Thanks, Michelle. :)

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    2. LOL! You're smart. The question is, are you right? =)

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  48. In real life, we struggle, we suffer, and we hit rock bottom. If we can't shelter ourselves or our loved ones from these things, then we shouldn't shelter our characters either. It's important for us to torture them not only to make them great and to help them to grow, but also to make them and their story real.

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    1. Agreed. We shouldn't shelter them. We should follow them through whatever it is they need to endure.

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  49. Lovely, ladies. All three!! Gotta have struggles for our characters. Jerkfaces is right. And yay Come Back!

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  50. I have to say when the pain is done correctly, my heart goes out to the victim.

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  51. Although it's the most believable, I'm going with #3 as the lie. Even that fake Velveeta stuff can upgrade a piece of broccoli.

    I appreciate your thoughtful questions, Crystal. My protagonist, me, is fairly tortured. So I don't have to work hard to torture her and I don't mind doing so. It's all good in the world of creative non-fiction.

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    1. Good luck, Robyn. Thanks for visiting. :)

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    2. LOL. Real life is always so dark, eh?

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  52. I never seem to struggle with making my characters suffer...then again, I'm evil! >:P

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  53. I hate to see people sad or tortured- but characters do have some challenges I wouldn't want to see my loved one go through!

    I am thinking #2 is the lie...
    ~Jess

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  54. I think characters need to struggle because it's all about their growth and you do that by overcoming hardships. Extremes of emotion make for the best stories. But there can be extremes of joy too!

    I can well believe #3 and #1 could have been a dead piranha, couldn't it? Stuffed, maybe! I remember Melissa saying she chose her pen name because it wasn't widely used. Maybe there is a rare orchid that has the same name. Twisted logic but there you go!

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    1. I completely agree. The extremes are the best. =)

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  55. I think 3 is the lie.

    I know that I've been successful after my lowest points, and I don't always let on that I'm suffering because I don't want my friends and family to worry about me.

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  56. I don't think Melissa hates broccoli :)

    Also, I feel your pain with torturing our characters. I'm just finishing up revisions on one novel and starting to think about another... and I think that revision is mostly going to be focused on hurting my favourite characters more. It'll be hard, but it's for their own good ;)

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    1. You'll find out soon...
      Thanks for playing, Rhonda. :)

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    2. I know. I find myself say, "Yes, I'm going to chop off your arm, but it will be for your own good." ;P

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  57. Sadly struggling is part of life though I don't like it either. And happy characters sadly don't make for good stories. Sounds like you're on the right track.

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    1. I hope so, because the other track was too expensive. ;)

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  58. I have bruises from some of those rocks at the bottom, but I've learned how to land better with each crash. I think characters can do the same, but crash they must and you definitely understand that.

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  59. When I did my rewrite of my mg I had to put my characters into more dangerous situations, I almost couldn't breath as I was writing the scenes.

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    1. Oh my goodness, I know that sensation. There was one scene I wrote where it literally felt like my soul was breaking. Yup.

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  60. I'll guess the lie is #1.

    Happy endings, either fictional or real-life, are sweetest and best-appreciated when we had to earn them and they weren't handed to us on a silver platter. I often think of Dante, who had to descend to the lowest, saddest point possible before he was able to slowly start his ascent up through happier, prettier, more hopeful places and get back on track with his faith and life's direction.

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    1. That's right. Let's earn those happy endings, eh?

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  61. Tortured souls are my absolute favourite. So much more real, gritty, heart wrenching passion. :)

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    1. Juliette, I wouldn't expect anything different from you. =)

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  62. I think characters have to endure the tough stuff, but I don't like it when it's overdone.

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  63. Dream ideas are either brilliant or... what the hell does that mean? I wish you many of the former and none of the latter :-)

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Hit me with your cheese!