You've heard the expression before, nice guys finish last...well if it's not always true in life, it's certainly true in writing. I'm finding, after various critiques with my witting buddy, that I'm well, sort of a wimp when it comes to hurting any of my characters. "You start the threat, but then don't follow through," that's the critique I recently received about my book Trevelyn's Shimmer, which I've stopped shopping around to work on further, after numerous rejections from editors.
My writing buddy is right, too. I am too much of a wimp when it comes to hurting my characters. Convenient Coincidence is what it's called when your character overcomes a hardship before getting to the real nitty-gritty. I tend to do this a lot. My characters are thirsty - whoosh, water appears! My characters need money - ka-ching, cash appears! You see what I mean. I need to make them work for what they want, and in doing this, the novel becomes more real.
Roald Dahl didn't spare any lives when it came to the mean giants eating little kids in The Big Friendly Giant. Nancy Farmer didn't have her character Tom, in The House of The Scorpion, worry about the frog's feelings when he nailed him to the ground. And Kate DiCamillo didn't show Miggory Sow any mercy when her uncle walloped her against the head making her deaf in one ear in The Tale of Desperaux. Okay, those examples are pretty harsh, but life can be harsh, right?
So in my revised version of Trevelyn's Shimmer, when Marie loses her bag of food and money, and when her balloon gets pooped, she'd better hold on tight. You just have to say to yourself, it's nothing personal, it's a novel and even through hardships know that the nice guys, even when bruised and battered, don't finish last.