It’s all the bad stuff: the villains, the heart-pounding action, the high stakes – the sense of true danger and risk.
In fact, that was the main critique by a few agents, of my previous book, is that the stakes weren’t high enough for my main character. Things were resolved without enough risk and danger. I get it. Those agents were right. And I will go back and rewrite that story because I love it and believe in my characters.
And not every book has a huge dark side. Sometimes the conflict is more subtle than a witch with a vendetta or a fire-breathing dragon. And I guess it’s not so bad to be bad at the bad things. I think I’m kind of good at the good things: beautiful descriptions, rich settings and characters that people love and want to see succeed.
But the bad stuff? That stuff is important. It’s real – we all face real threats, real struggles, and sometimes, real villains, be they the soul-sucking, horned, magic-wielding sort or not. It’s what propels us and our characters to grow, to change – or not. It’s what pushes us forward, what moves our stories to where they need to be. I need to learn to think more villain-y. It’s hard though – because I’m definitely more of a rainbows and unicorns and sunshine sort of person.
I’ve tried to really wrestle through this in my current story, wanting the action and pacing to be strong, and wanting the sense of threat and danger to feel real enough that readers care about what happens next. Because when everything’s all hunky-dory, we just don’t care. We’re made to invest ourselves when there’s trouble, when something has to be called out of us, requiring us to step in.
And because it’s a retelling of the sleeping beauty story, I also don’t want the villains to be too predictable or overdone (I still luuuurve you Maleficent – you are magnificent!). I need to offer something different, a different angle to the fairy tale. I just sent out the first draft of my novel to my beta readers, and I’m looking forward to hearing what they think of it, and eagerly await the amazing feedback they’re going to give me to make it even stronger. I’ve been in my head about the whole thing for 9 months, so as terrifying as it is to send it out into the world, it feels so good to let it go and give it to someone else to think about for awhile!