Another elegant Edmund Dulac illustration
from Tales from the Arabian Nights,
Reader's Digest edition, 1991.
Thanks to Cyn for her link to published author Joshua Palmatier ( of action and intrigue fantasy novels: The Cracked Throne and The Skewed Throne -- the third, The Vacant Throne, to come out next year) and a most interesting blog post on risks.
(If I screwed up the link, it can be accessed from her blog.)
By risks, however, he doesn't mean tricks in technique, like writing in second person present in a genre that doesn't expect it, avoiding all punctuation, or eliminating every part of speech except verbs and nouns.
He means taking risks with plot and character.
To illustrate, he uses an example of a character that is set upon and has the piss beaten out of him.
And rather than just drop it in and then back off from the character's "shame and pain," he made that helplessness and embarrassment over wet pants part of the story.
Real, natural -- but risky.
Readers might react unfavourably to a hero who pisses himself. It might fall into that category of Things They'd Rather Not Read About.
Joshua's post was particularly timely for me.
I've been dithering over whether I dare take risks with Lillie in my WIP.
Thinking that if I don't, there's danger she might become Just Another Paranormal Heroine.
Certainly, I set her up for it, straight from the first scene when she says: I'd managed to kill my husband a second time.
Oh sure, superficially that's calculated suspense, but the various and subsequent issues related to and eventually evolving from that statement might be considered distasteful and disturbing by some readers. Sexual issues, moral issues.
But that blunt statement alone might make some readers uneasy, queasy, reluctant.
Then I realized, with the violence of the final scene of Stone Child, I'd already made the decision to risk reader approval of my character.
Naturally, success depends -- as always -- on how well a writer manages these deviations from the standard.
So, have you taken risks with your characters, your plot?