Strengthen a Character with a Wound – Guest Post from Beth Vogt

Today the post on Strenthening a Character with a Wound is from author Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” A nonfiction writer and editor who said she’d never write fiction, Beth is now a novelist with Howard Books. She enjoys writing inspirational contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us. 

So let’s hear what Beth has to say about Strengthen a Character with a Wound

A few months ago, I had back surgery. The finishing touch to the neurosurgeon’s efforts? Nine staples in my lower back. I have a scar, but since the surgery was successful, you’ll hear no complaints from me.

Unless I told someone the details of my surgery – or showed them my scar – they wouldn’t know about my “back story.” I know because I’m affected by it every day. There are things I can’t do anymore – Goodbye, Runner Girl! – and there are things I have to do differently.

We all experience physical injuries from scraped knees to defective hearts. But what about the other injuries we experience – unseen emotional wounds that affect us just as much, if not more, than a broken leg or diagnosis of cancer?

Make Him Limp
Whenever I see someone limping, I always wonder what happened to cause that person to limp? There’s a reason – a story – behind the missteps.

As a writer, you don’t just know why your character limps – you’re the one who made him limp. How? By taking the time to develop his backstory, which includes a specific Dark Moment in his past that wounded him emotionally and now influences how he interacts with others and with God. I think of this as a “heart limp.”

Let’s unpack this for a moment with an example:

In my latest novel Somebody Like You, my main character’s Dark Moment was when his twin brother walked away from him – joining the military after high school instead of sticking with their plan to go to college. This event was the culmination of a number of confrontations between the brothers that led to years of estrangement.

This Dark Moment creates an emotional wound in my character – a “heart limp.”
The Wound is one of betrayal. From this Wound comes a Lie and a Fear.
The Lie is that people you love will betray you.
The Fear is that he is afraid to love others in a close, intimate way because he doesn’t want to be hurt again (betrayed again).

Two Tips to Remember
Here are two things to remember when you craft a character’s Wound:
1. Focus on one specific painful, life-altering moment for your character – not something vague like “she had a bad relationship with her mom.”
2. Ask yourself: How would my character’s Wound, Lie and Fear affect how they interact with people they love and with God?”

When we take the time to develop these invisible Wounds for our fictional characters, our story deepens and becomes more compelling. We know why our hero and heroine do the things they do and say the things they say – and we also get to write a stronger story because we better understand how their Wounds are healed.

How have you strengthened your main characters with a Wound?

Someone Like You - Beth Yogt

 

Somebody Like You:

In this beautifully rendered, affecting novel, a young widow’s world is shattered when she meets her late husband’s identical twin—and finds herself caught between honoring her husband’s memory and falling in love with his reflection.
Connect with Beth on her http://www.bethvogt.com/ or check out her blog on quotes, In Others’ Words.
Her books are available at online bookstores and in stores where all books are sold.

 

 

 

 

 

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11 Comments

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  1. Alena Wendall May 6, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    Beth/Gail,

    Love the “heart limp” what an accurate picture for our characters but especially our lives.

    Thanks for taking the time to share.

    Alena

    • Beth K. Vogt May 6, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

      Thanks, Alena: I think most people can understand the concept of a “heart limp” — we all have them.

  2. Davalynn Spencer May 6, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

    Great post, Beth. I recently added a ‘wound’ to the heroine in my WIP – a limp, in fact. But I like the way you carry it farther with the lie and the fear. Great depth to add to a character!

    The premise for “Somebody” sounds intriguing. What a dilemma to have a mirror image of your deceased husband. Seems like you’d be second guessing yourself all the time. Great concept!

    • Beth K. Vogt May 6, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

      Hi, Davalynn:
      How intriguing that you gave your heroine an actual limp!
      I learned about the importance of the Wound, Lie, and Fear from My Book Therapy, author Susan May Warren’s writing community. These elements have helped me develop deeper characters.
      And yes, writing Somebody Like You was challenging — and fun!

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