where the writers are
Put Characters Where They Least Want to Be
James feeling uneasy

I can't quite remember where it was that I found the bit of advice that is the title of this post. It may have been the New Yorker or it may have been a book I am reading on the poet Donald Hall.

At any rate, it was enough to get me up out of bed when I read it and jot it down in a post-it note so that I didn't forget it. As an aside, I am always getting up from bed to write little notes down so that I don't forget them. For some reason--maybe it is because I do my reading at night--it is just as I am laying down for sleep that I come up with all sorts of story ideas and other thoughts for my writing. Normally I keep a small notebook by the bed, but for some reason I haven't done that lately and in my laziness have lost a number of good ideas. Perhaps they will return.

But I do believe that the advice, "Always put your characters where they least want to be" is fairly spot on in terms of creating dramatic tension in a story and getting the most from the very interesting people that you create. I also think that it may not work if you merely put the character in a scene and then for no apparent reason or with no warning say that the character is at unease. The prime example is a character that finds him/herself on top of a tall building or having just fallen into the water and the writer includes some bit of information that the character has always been afraid of heights or water. Foreshadow people, foreshadow.


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Now I've got it on a

Now I've got it on a post-it, too. Thanks for this!