When you’ve finished a draft, you may feel like you have captured the real essence of the characters, their world, their lives, their adventures–
But it’s a little too easy on them.
If your main problem in feedback on your manuscripts is that you aren’t being mean enough to your characters, that your story lacks drama because they triumph too easily, that the tension and interest would be higher if things were rougher on them — you probably need to listen.
Yes, I and others sometimes express weariness with plots where everything always goes wrong for the protagonist, chapter after chapter, until suddenly at the end everything can be wound up and reversed. The world isn’t really full of villains and fools just waiting to do someone dirt as soon as they are declared a protagonist or the close attachment of one, and we find it difficult to believe a world where that’s how they all act. Things have to work both ways, but right now in the story you know is right, things don’t go wrong enough or often enough.
What you need to do is to preserve this version. Burn a copy on CDR and print it out in hardcopy. Now you have, forever, the True Story. This is the real history of these people and this place.
You will now put aside this true history, and write the fictionalized version. This is the one in which you can make any changes in, do all sorts of things to your poor leads, and torque it up as far higher than reality as you like.
There — wasn’t that liberating? You have the true story safe. Let’s go write the good one that will sell.