Security Blankets: Taking Away What Our Characters Love

11:31 AM


Today's discussion is my favorite, because it involves breaking characters.

BEHOLD MY EVILNESS. 

This is one of my favorite things to do because I'm a heartless writer who kills everything she touches I enjoy figuring out characters' weaknesses and exposing them for the sake of character development. So we'll jump right in. 

Just like real people, every character, even that hardcore villain of yours, has a security blanket. Something that hides them from the world, or something they can hide behind to get away from other people, or something they can hide things under. Something they rely on and carry everywhere they go. Being in control, a physical addiction, being the cheerful one, and so on. 

What makes for a really interesting story is when you rip that security blanket away from them and force them to cope without it.

everything animated GIF

I don't think I've read a single book where the protagonist got through without having to face something difficult. Usually, this involved getting rid of the thing they like to hide behind, and then shoving them into an uncomfortable situation without it. (Katniss loses her privacy, June from Legend loses her blind trust in the government, Darrow from Red Rising loses his entire identify.) I've always been fascinated by what happens when you throw characters completely off-balance and force them to function on their own that way. 

Usually there are emotional breakdowns involved.

For example, I had to do some blanket-snatching in Pariah just the other day. It involved taking control away from one character so they were in a position of needing to be saved, and also giving control to another character and putting them in a position where they needed to make the call to do some saving. These characters are radically different, and just by pulling the rugs of control/helplessness out from under their feet, I drove them to move the plot forward and do things they never thought they could just because I gave them no other choice. When the stakes are high and they have nothing left to lean on, characters can do some pretty interesting things that say a lot about their real character and often help build them into the developed character you want them to be. 

Just do it. 

Find the thing they love, and take it away from them.


What's your main character's security blanket? How do you rip it away? Are you an evil author, or do you like to cuddle the poor babies? Comment away. 

29 comments

  1. I love this post. I love ripping away that security blanket, because it normally involves panic/mental breakdowns/hard situations for my character. And since I am an evil person, this brings me great joy. And I'm not sorry.

    But it's also fascinating. If your characters have a mind of their own 99% of the time like mine, you don't know really what they're going to do. So I rip away their security blanket, force them into a situation they don't want to be in. And honestly, how they react to this, how they adapt, is absolutely fascinating to me.

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    1. Mwhahaha. I totally don't blame you, because mental breakdowns are fun to write. And I really DO enjoy seeing how they figure it out or don't figure it out (depending on their personality) because yeah, most of the time they have a mind of their own and I really don't know. So ripping away security blankets is kind of addicting sometimes.

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  2. YES. This needs to happen--to the main character at the very least--in every story. Take away the thing he loves, throw at him the thing he fears most (there might be some overlap). It's mean, but it makes for awesome stories. Thanks for another amazing post!

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    1. I agree -- it's good for character development, and just showing what kind of a person this character is in general. And I love it.

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  3. I had a very strange experience reading this post because in the first draft of one of my novels the thing my protagonist liked to literally hide behind was her hair-- and so when I read that you need to "rip the the thing they hide behind away from them" I had a rather disturbing mental picture of someone actually ripping her hair off.

    Ahem. Anyway. This is such a great post! I haven't consciously tried doing this in most of my stories, but I can think of several times I did it unknowingly, and I'll have to make sure I do it with all of my other characters, too. *runs off cackling to inflict mental and emotional torture and maybe rip some hair off*

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    1. Oh, gosh, that made me laugh out loud. xD Let's not literally rip off hair, unless, of course, that's their #1 weakness and we must for the sake of plot. Which brings up a whole set of plot bunnies...

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  4. I think I've done this without realizing it, too. In my book one of the main characters gets separated from her friends and brother at one point along their journey, which pretty much breaks her as she realizes that she is alone and has no idea what has become of the rest of them. I think she's a pretty relationship-driven person, so not having people around her is more or less a nightmare to her. At this point she has to get herself together and try to forget about her insecurities so she can find them and, well, survive. Great post. c:

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    1. Yeah, I usually do it without meaning to, which is sometimes much more fun and insightful. I didn't actually realize what I was doing and start giving it a name until recently. xD And ooh, yes, friends/family is a good one! Plenty of heartbreaking opportunities there.

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  5. Ahhh I remember you talking about this. EVIL AIMEE EVIL.
    Mine . . . it's probably having a plan. He likes plans. And if he can't make a plan to reach his goal he wallows and mopes.
    My other book though . . . my FMC it may have been playing the victim? Or NO, wait, it was another character. xD I've already taken him away ha. And the MMC . . . It's his reputation, which coincidentally requires an additional safety blanket to maintain, his secret piano playing. Ace is an odd child.

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    1. IF YOU DIDN'T THINK I WOULD BLOG ABOUT THIS YOU ARE VERY WRONG. *cackles evilly*

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  6. I feel like you've really enjoyed talking about this before, though not in the same detail as this. I like that you talk about it, because at least for me, this is one of my weaknesses. I let some of my own biases really keep me from taking security blankets out—not just my characters' but mine as well. I have problems writing about tattoos and other religions and other races and things I have been told are wrong even if I don't believe in them that way anymore. Like, it's not just a matter of whether or not I want to hurt my characters, but how I want to affect the people I'm close to who might read my book later, too. BUT IT IS SOMETHING I NEED TO WORK ON. So I will work on it. Right. Totally. I'm on it.

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    1. Ooh, that's a good point. I've never had a difficult time with that because I don't tend to care what people think about what I write (which creates a whole different set of problems, yes) but I can see that.

      And I do enjoy talking about causing characters pain.
      Very much.

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  7. I hadn't considered the issue from this angle, but I definitely rip away a LOT of security blankets. Really, I don't like to rip them away, I like to tear it away corner by corner until the character suddenly realises they're on very thin ice. I may refine my secondary characters from this perspective, though, so thank you very much for the post!

    PS: I let the characters I kill off keep their security blankets. Sometimes. If I'm nice I wait until they're in their graves before sneaking it away.

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  8. This is an interesting perspective. I hadn't thought of it before. I suppose Mor's is control of her emotions and Bryce's is security in his identity. Good post. ^ ^

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks! It's something I'm very fascinated by. xD

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  9. Yeah, taking their security blanket away is really effective for character development. I've taken my character's security blanket by showing them that their security blanket was just a lie. It turns out it was just a blanket. Not even. It was a little hankie.

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    1. Bwhahaha, yes, that's a very good way to do it. :P

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  10. I know, I need to do this to my character, but I love my characters and I want to take care of them! )-: Okay. *hardens heart against dear sweet characters*

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    1. Hah, I'm heartless so I can't say I feel ya... KILL ALLLLL THE CHARACTERS.

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  11. I love this post! I think I really need this reminder too, so I can refocus on what I'm doing. At the moment I'm in the process of giving the characters a good taste of what they want, before I get to rip it all away and the world goes spiraling to doom again.

    Ahem.

    The gifs were spot on!

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    1. Hahaha, that's the best way to do it -- happiness and THEN destruction. Obviously.

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  12. YES. Taking away security blankets and comfort zones are the best ways of producing great character development, in my opinion. Everyone loves a survivor. :)

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    1. Yes! A lot of YA books really don't do this and it's kind of sad.

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  13. So I kinda have a split personality with this, lol. Like I /want/ to cuddle the poor babies and wrap them up suffocatingly tight in their security blankets; but at the same time, I know it's good for them to step out of their comfort zones because that's how you see what they're really made of (plus, we're writers, we're evil, it's kinda fun), lol. And besides, if you let them stay in their comfort zones, they never get anywhere. and that kind of story would be just plain boring.


    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

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    1. I'm heartless myself xD Pushing characters' limits is kind of addicting sometimes.
      *evil laugh*

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  14. I enjoy ripping the security blanket away because as soon as I do, the character becomes alive or dies out entirely. If they come to life, I know they are for keeps. If they die, I rip them out of the story.
    Either way, they prove their worth, and it's fun to see how they do.

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  15. Depnds on my mood, as to whether I cuddle them or destroy them. It's so... fun to destroy them. But then you have a whole bunch of vaguely or not-so-vaguely traumatized characters sitting around in little padded cells in your head, and you feel so bad for them and their teary eyes that they give you. Or perhaps they pout while pressing their faces against the bars in their prison cell. I have an antagonist who does that. Like really, man. Grow a pair, and stop making me feel bad for you.

    IDK if that makes sense. My brain is an odd place.

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