Shake it, baby, shake it

Joe’s Post #102

Shake It, Baby, Shake It.

Or rather, ‘Shake it up.’

gwdtPaula’s post this week hit on an important thing. Shaking it up. She used The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo as a great example of a character that’s about as far from vanilla as rocky-road mixed with cherry-garcia.

Wait, hold on, I suddenly need to grab some ice cream for some reason.

Ok, I’m back.

Here’s the thing. As new writers, we simply have to find a way to be better. Practice alone isn’t enough. Not in this day and age. Maybe in any day and age.

So it got me a-thinkin’. And when I gets me a-thinkin’, I start looking around on the interweb to find me some good ideas and maybe somethun’ that’s kinda cool.

And this is what I found. It’s an interesting idea. A way of rethinking how to do a character’s journey.

5 Stages of Grief.










Ok, it’s for scripts, but the idea is sound.

Who would have thought to take your characters through the 5 stages of grief?

The first stage – Denial. This is not something I need to work on. Not ever. I’m that good … and yet when I applied it to my character it kicked up a scene to a whole different level. Ok, I haven’t written the scene, yet, but I have changed my outline and it packs a lot more of a whallop!

Especially the idea that the bigger the stakes, the more the character has to deny it.

Hmmm. That’s pretty cool, actually.

Second Stage – Anger. Again, something I am personally quite familiar with, especially when some person freaking slows down in the freaking fast lane to less than the freaking speed limit so they can check a freaking text they got from their freaking boyfriend that showed a freaking cat freaking sitting in a freaking bowl.

But for writers, I think this stage is about the big emotional payoff to whatever got them started on their adventure. Anger works, but so do other emotions. In my case, though, yup, kicking the anger up really made it seem like it mattered more. Like mattered a whole hell of a lot!

Why oh why do I persist in writing characters who are afraid of emotion? Hello, Dr. Freud, paging Dr. Freud.

Third Stage – Bargaining. If I don’t have to do this one, will it be ok? Probably not, but I had this in the outline so I’ll just think how I can kick it up a notch.

Fourth is Depression – or the protagonist’s darkest moment. Hey, if your story doesn’t have that, add it in. I saw another book that asked, what is your antagonist’s greatest moment? They can be, and usually are, the same thing.

d and hNot always, though. To me, Harry Potter’s darkest moment (spoiler alert, spoiler alert) was when he found out that Dumbledore knew Harry’s fate all along, a moment of personal betrayal so great it hollowed out my chest.

But if you can find a way to shake up that dark moment, when despair threatens to overwhelm a character, when all seems hopeless and you just found out your dad is Darth Vadar and your friends have been captured and will likely be tortured to death, yeah, find a way to do that.

Lastly – Acceptance. At the end, in the middle, even in the beginning. That catharsis of letting go can be powerful. I mean, hey, Luke Skywalker literally lets go.

Like the article says, all of these stages can be in any order or can occur over and over, again. It’s just a really clever way of shaking up a character in your story a bit.

Any other insights on how to shake it up, baby?

6 thoughts on “Shake it, baby, shake it

  1. Love this Joe. Being medically trained (and through personal experience) I can relate to this intellectually and emotionally. It’s also 5 ways to shake up my story that I don’t need to stop and look up but can apply on the fly so-to-speak! Love the visual you found too. Thanks!

  2. Love it! I think I did this subconsciously, but the helplessness came before acceptance. Maybe she hadn’t truly accepted it but felt she had no choice.I love reading the psychology behind behaviour. Great post 🙂

  3. So many great ideas here. You’re not the only writer who creates characters who don’t show (enough) emotion. We all need to let go of the reins! Thanks pal, and I mean that in the most demonstrative of ways. xxxooo

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