Two dreams which have come true, an earthquake, a hailstorm, a demon scare, a major case of the evil eye, protective custody, a baby being born with a cord around his neck, a jealous rival, an armed invasion, a lion attack, and a mob stoning an old bald man… These are the ways I've been torturing my main character… So far.
People give you the most depressing advice:
Orson Scott Card says you have to hurt your main character, over and over again, to make a good story.
Stephen King in On Writing says that you have to pick the character who hurts the worst.
Immediate Fiction author (can't remember the name) says that each thing that happens must be bad, must be worse.
Someone, can't remember who, requires a surprise every 800 words. (That's two pages of a packed novel. Five or six of a “light read.”)
The last three things in my first list don't happen to the main character, although the armed invasion is on her city. But the lion attack and the mob stoning, that's someone else. I haven't decided if she is going to be there when that happens. I've set it up so that she could, but right now she's not. I may have to change it.
I told myself that I would have this section of the novel complete by the end of the month. Just in time for my baby bro's 40th. I have 82,000 words, which is about 200 pages. I expect the novel will be around 500.
Card says you have to start with the character wanting to change. I don't. I start with the character not wanting to change, but events making her do so. It works better. In fact, this whole section of the book is about how my character likes her life and her plans and wants to keep them from changing. However, because of who she is (honorable, etc), her life keeps changing.
This character is from a real life person. Rather, she was a real life person 3000 years ago. But all I know about her was she was a girl, a slave, and a true believer. The rest of the story sprang from my questioning how she got to be those things. (Well, not the girl part.)
A friend of mine asked me who I would want to be my patron saint from the Old Testament, if I had to choose one. I told her this girl. My friend said, “Patron Saints have to have names.” I answered, “She has a name. We just don't know what it is.” BTW her name is Dielli.