W is for What’s Your Damage

Meme created by Erin Penn

Today is the last of the SAGA Professional Writer’s Conference memes. If any of them sparked interest in SAGA, you can find out more about the annual conference at: sagaconference.com. The next one is scheduled for Winston-Salem in July 2024.

The full list is:
1. Enter Late, Leave Early
2. Give Your Characters Trouble
3. Better Verbs Make Better Writing
4. Everything you want is on the other side of fear
5. What’s Your Damage?

These were supported by other memes I’ve made: Don’t walk through doors; You are my Favorite character, I’m going to hurt you the most; Write with Style; Don’t get it right, get it written; The secret to writing fiction is always tell the truth.

What’s your damage? is a question you need to ask your hero. What is the shard of glass, the dagger in their belly, that makes them make wrong, or at least less than optimal, decisions? What makes them not perfect?

The damage which makes a person depend only on themselves, so doesn’t ask for help even when they should, because as a child they couldn’t trust their parents. The damage of a trick knee, so they can’t run, but they insist on coming to fight the monster anyway.

In Honestly, my hero has injuries making him weaker than pictures himself, and my heroine is still living with her last (ex-) relationship in her head. I really should have played with their damages a bit more, but the novelette is my first completed work. I learned a lot writing it.

You might not need to ask the point-of-view character What’s Your Damage until the first draft is done. Then you go back and hone the story, sprinkling the emotional journey throughout. Do they learn something that will heal their Damage? Do they learn a workaround to bandage the Damage for now?

The Damage is important. It makes the hero not-perfect. It makes them real. The Damage is what makes a story of Dragons and Wizards, of Spaceships and Blasters, of Love-at-first-sight and Billionaire-loving-Waitresses real. Damage pulls genre into reality.

Meme created by Erin Penn

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