I’m a Critter, a fan of the web series Critical Role. Every Thursday, a bunch of nerdy voice actors get together and play Dungeons & Dragons. One of my favorite moments from their first campaign, Vox Machina, was when Marisha Ray’s character, Keyleth, received a letter from a friend: a blacksmith named Kerrek (Patrick Rothfuss).

Here’s an excerpt (no spoilers):

Did you know that there are some seeds that cannot sprout unless they are first burned? …I think it is interesting that there are some living things that need to pass through fire before they flourish….You have the heart of a gardener, and because of this, you think of consequence and your current path pains you. I am not wise, and I do not give advice, but I have come to know a few things.

Sometimes, breaking is making. Even iron can start again, and there are many things that move through fire and find themselves much better for it afterward.

Crying woman in front of a skull. Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay.
Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

That made me think of how cruel writers can be to their characters. We love to break our “toys”, no matter how precious they are to us. Their dreams? They may never come true. Their plans? They’re always at risk of failure. And if they’re attached to something — or someone — we tear it away from them.

Are we heartless? No. As strange as it sounds, we want the best for them. We want them to survive their worst nightmares and become stronger because of it.

Writers are blacksmiths like Kerrek. They plunge their characters into the fire, pound them, grind them, temper them, until they become the brightest, sharpest, most beautiful swords. That’s that type of writer I wanna be. I wanna burn my characters in order to shape them into something better.

In the stories you’ll read on this site, Aisha and Nex will suffer physically and emotionally. But they’ll get through the hardship together and become unbreakable, as a couple and as individuals.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

Helen Keller