Writing Tip: Kill the Urge to Protect Your Characters

If you know me well, you’ll know that I’m crazy about crime shows. These days I’m hooked on The Mentalist – or more specifically, I’m hooked on Patrick Jane, the oh-so charming main character. One thing I noticed while watching this show is that my favorite episodes are when Patrick Jane gets hurt.

And it’s not just this show. Another example would be when Frodo gets stabbed in Lord of the Rings – this was one of my favorite scenes too.

I know, sounds morbid.

This got me wondering. Why do I enjoy it when favorite characters get hurt?

Here’s one theory I came up with as to why we (I) experience thrill when the protagonist is placed in danger:

A protagonist’s appeal is amplified during a near-death scene (You know he/she will be OK in the end, but the other characters don’t know it). These scenes allow us to observe how other characters react to this high stress situation. Some will break into tears or stare into space, totally shocked by the possibility of losing the protagonist, and others might express their desperation by yelling out for help – all of which demonstrates that the protagonist is darn important and special to everyone.

This leads to the next question: Why do we love it when the wounded protagonist gets all the attention?

It’s possible that when we’re invested emotionally in a protagonist, we end up living vicariously through him/her. The thrill we feel when we watch a protagonist severely injured might then be akin to watching our own fake funeral. You get to see characters suddenly letting down their guard, confessing how much they loved you but never had the chance to say so; you see what a significant role you played in their lives as grief/panic/fear clouds their expressions. All the characters realize through this how important you are to them.

In other words, readers/audience get a false ego boost by living vicariously through an injured protagonist. Yes, we understand on a conscious level that what we’re watching or reading isn’t real, but we’re still able to indulge in the emotional reactions as though it were actually happening to us. And that’s why we LOVE it when protagonists are placed in danger.

So this is my theory – what’s yours?

What other shows/films/books depicts thrilling near-death scenes?


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Espionage Gone Wrong: American Revolution

1I’m researching about the American Revolution (1775–1783) for my WIP#2. It’s about a young aristocrat suffering from amnesia, lost in the backwoods filled with armed rebels and loyalists. He doesn’t remember his name, he doesn’t even know where his loyalty lies: is it to the king or to the Thirteen Colonies? He’s rescued by the cross-dressing loyalist, Marie, who knows how to a hold a rifle steady and is determined to save her father from facing a spy’s death — death by hanging.

Of course, I might end up writing about different characters. But for now that’s my focus. I’ll share more about the WIP when I finish outlining. Right now, I’m just really fascinated by the American Revolution.

And as I was reading through Fryer’s KING’S MEN (a book about Loyalist regiments) I found a funny tidbit about an espionage gone wrong-ish:

Dr. George Symth (an agent by the code name ‘Hudibras’ of the Loyalist spy network) once used slang to encode a message and informed the governor’s secretary, Robert Mathews, that ‘Blackbirds Pearch on my branches to the South,’ meaning the rebels were watching him. An irked Mathews retorted:

“I am totally at a loss to understand the last Paragraph of your letter. Oriental Intelligence is of no weight and Black Birds Spray upon my Branches to the South – In all matters of Business excuses my Requesting that you would be explicit – I am more particular in this as I lay my Letters before His Excellency and feel awkward if not able to explain every Circumstance they relate to.”

Reading that gave me a good chuckle. If you’re interested, you should check out AMC’s TURN. It’s all about spies and it’s awesome.



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You Know You’re Querying When…


So you think your manuscript is ready for an agent. You send out a batch of query letters…Usually this happens:

  • You always wait for Monday. Monday is the Magical Rejection Day. That’s when it’s possible to receive three or more rejections in one day.
  • The spam folder you once had ZERO interest in – you now click on just to make sure…just in case…
  • The refresh button is your best friend.
  • You check your email as soon as you wake up.
  • Each time the email notification rings on your cellphone, you scramble to check if an agent replied to your query. When you realize the email is a newsletter from some random store – you immediately unsubscribe.
  • You experience rejection letter withdrawal.
  • You re-re-re-reread your query letter, synopsis, opening paragraphs.
  • You realize you’ve missed a comma. Your reaction: OH NOOOO!!!!!!! Kinda feels like the end of the world.
  • Everyday you’re filled with both agitation and total anticipation. Whatever the result (or lack thereof) in your querying journey, it really hits you – Oh em gee, I’m actually trying to get published… Yes, there is the pain of rejection. But the pain tells you that you’re trying, that you’re pursuing your dream.
  •  You have the song “Take a chance on me” playing in your head. The entire song translates to: Agent, I’m still free, take a chance on me.

What else should be added to this list?


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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015)

So here’s a first image from the set of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015).


The film is based on the book. And the book by Seth Grahame-Smith – well, it’s basically Jane Austen’s P&P with modern zombie fiction inserted into the original text.

PrideandPrejudiceandZombiesCoverHas anyone read it? I HAVE. It was actually a required reading for one of my courses at the University of Toronto – a Jane Austen seminar, to be specific.

(Intermission: This seminar comprised entirely of female students. On the first day, one male student did walk in, but the moment he saw the mass of female students, he chose to sit in the far corner of the lecture room. After that class, I did not see him again).

The concept of this book was intriguing, but it got a bit boring after a while, because I didn’t find the zombie fiction part of the book to be that entertaining. BUT! Hopefully what I found boring on paper will prove to be more entertaining on screen.

There were a few scenes in P&P&Z that made me roll my eyes (and secretly snicker). Here’s one of them:

[Elizabeth] remembered the lead ammunition in her pocket and offered it to him. “Your balls, Mr. Darcy?” He reached out and closed her hand around them, and offered, “They belong to you, Miss Bennet.” Upon this, their colour changed, and they were forced to look away from one another, lest they laugh.

 You get it? Balls? Ha – ha – ha.

I have a feeling the film adaption of P&P&Z will spice things up a bit between Lizzie and Darcy…



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Period Drama 2014 (II)

THE GREAT FIRE (TV series 2014)

The drama unfolds over four consecutive days as the fire indiscriminately takes hold of the city and the people desperately attempt to overcome the flames, as no matter what your path in life or status all human life is vulnerable. The fire consumes homes and lives as loyalties and friendships are tested and passions come to the fore.  As the greatest city of the 17th century is destroyed, the fire is a catalyst to acts of forbidden love, deceit and despair (synopsis).


THE KNICK (TV series 2014)

….Also called the “gilded age gore.”
I’m currently watching this show. So far so good!

Medical drama set in the 1900s charts the exploits of the staff and patients at a New York hospital, where they try to maintain their reputation for quality care while struggling to keep the doors open (Rottentomatoes).


P.S. I finished watching AMC’s TURN a few days ago. The series was preeetttyyyy darn good, though a little slow at first. I might write a quick review for it. And it’s been renewed for a second season, so hurrah!



Other Period Dramas




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