Part of my role as a psychiatrist is to convey a sense of understanding to my patients. A lot of times, people experience frustration, rejection, loneliness, despair when they don’t feel “heard.”
I’m sure we’ve all been through this.
Turning to writing, I think it’s safe to say that our characters want to be understood too. As writers, we have the power to make conversations go smoothly, to have our characters say the right thing all the time, every time, and to create a world that runs perfectly. Easy peasy, right? Everybody’s happy, right?
BUT HOW BORING IS THAT?!
The challenge, then, is to captialize on conflict. Create tension by purposefully torquing misunderstandings.
Shannon Whitney Messenger offered a tip she learned at a conference:
From an editor: Remember that characters don’t speak to reveal. They speak to conceal. Real people rarely say exactly what they’re thinking. Characters shouldn’t either.
There you have it. People (and characters) want to be understood, but they often aren’t clear about what they’re thinking. They’ll often not say anything or say the OPPOSITE of what they feel.
I think the characters in Maggie Stiefvater’s LINGER exemplify this perfectly.
What about you? Do you create misunderstandings between characters in your writing? How do you do it?