People fall up and down stairs, into and out of love. We choose to free-fall on carnival rides or when sky-diving. We enjoy the beauty of waterfalls and falling leaves. Falling can be beautiful, romantic, sad, painful, and exciting (sometimes all at once). Some people even like to fall, and seek out opportunities to do so!
I’m not one of them. Jump out of a functional airplane? ON PURPOSE? You’ve got to be kidding. Truly, the sensation of free-fall is one of the most awful things I’ve ever experienced. Put me on carnival rides that dip, spin, weave, or climb and I am all set. But put me on one of those rides that drops? Oh, I don’t enjoy that at all. Emotional falls? Not a big fan of those, either.
Which may be why I’m struggling to knock my protagonist down emotionally. As a reader, I recognize that at some point the main character I’ve come to (hopefully) love, the one I willing follow as he or she navigates the complex plot the writer has conjured, has to fall down. In order for the story to be really robust, to help me truly care about this character, the character has to face down some big challenges, and get knocked down at least once (probably more than once). The character has to hit rock bottom, making me as a reader feel like maybe, just maybe, this character won’t get back up and I’m at the edge of my seat, madly turning pages, not able to put the book down. But he or she does get up, and I, the reader, cheer as the character overcomes that seemingly insurmountable challenge.
I’ve knocked Penelope, the protagonist of my work in progress down physically. (I’m sure the other guests at Barnes & Noble were appropriately horrified the day my writers’ group was discussing the various ways she could fall or be pushed down the stairs and what injuries were most likely.) Penelope has stumbled emotionally, too, but hasn’t really fallen. I just haven’t been able to completely knock her down, to the point where the reader is compelled to yell (figuratively or literally!), “C’mon, girl GET UP!” Perhaps its because I so hate that feeling of falling, and Penelope is me in so many ways, that is making it so difficult to knock her down. I’ll figure it out, but in the meantime I’m cheating by writing other chapters. (Shh! Don’t tell.)
How about you? Falling–love it or hate it?