‘The descent into the madness. Not that old chestnut.’
Stated by my friend Erica, at a Shortbreaders in Spain residential, who was lamenting on how easy it is to push your protagonist into ‘madness’ anytime he/she began acting out of character, and how we simply should not do this.
The writing situation gone wrong follows this path:
- Writing, writing, writing.
- All is well…actually, not it’s not.
- Things are getting a little boring in my narrative.
- Let’s make the character do something crazy.
- Wait, that’s totally not what he would normally do.
- Well, I’ll just turn this into a story about a character’s descent into madness.
We’ve all done it, and it’s not good writing. We feel like it’s justified because our shelves are filled with classic literature about character’s ‘descent into madness’. We tell ourselves, ‘If it was good enough for Shakespeare. It’s good enough for me.’
But, it’s not.
If the story is about mental illness. Then that’s fine.
If the story is about a character’s inability to cope with conflict. That’s fine.
If you’re simply pushing a story in an ‘interesting’ direction because you’re bored. That’s not fine.
All I’m saying is that before you send your character to Bedlam, take a break, and re-evaluate your story. There will be a hundred ways for you to turn the narrative around without reaching for the clichés.