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Special Note:Before we get to this month's topic, however, I want to tell you I've found a fantastic product for writers that has helped me so much it's incredible. I'll tell you more about it at the end of this post, or if you don't want to wait, visit the new page on this blog: click the tab above or click here: Amazing Product for Writers.
Now, let's talk about Main Characters that are not effective. (Tweet that!) Last month I mentioned "passive characters" -- characters that are victims. They have sad stories and a lot has happened to them, but they are not active in wanting something. Passive characters have no movement so they don't carry the story forward.
Another problem character is the main character who is too good. For example, what if your main character has already "arrived," meaning he or she seems to already "know it all." (Tweet that!)
One example of a character who has already "arrived" is the character many Christian writers want to put in their stories. That is, the Christian character who is already "saved." This character wants to share what they have and show the rest of the world that they need to be saved too. This is a formula for a preachy, overbearing story. (Tweet that!)
What do you need to do with these problem character to save your story?
Back Up Your Main Character
For know-it-all characters who have already "arrived," and for passive characters, you need to back that character up to a place or point in time before s/he knew that information, before s/he learned it, before s/he "arrived." (Tweet that!)
Then, let your character coming to that knowledge be part of the story. (Tweet that!) Showing your character acquiring this knowledge also allows you to show that growth in the character. When your audience sees that character learn it, they will also learn it and you will achieve the "theme" or "message" of your story (see previous post) without coming off as preachy.
Including this part of your character's story will also help you flesh out the middle part or Act 2 of your story, which is often a problem area. Some call it a middle that "sags."
How to Back Your Main Character Up
Just how do you back a character up like this? How can you use this to help improve your story and your character? What do you do with them?
Here are four ideas. This is not necessarily a "pick one" list. It may be best to do all of these!
As an example, I'm using one of my recent stories. It's a story about forgiveness. My main character could not move forward and do what she needed to do until she forgave a certain person in her life. But how does she come to that knowledge?
First, I gave her some common (but wrong) ideas about forgiveness, including these thoughts:
- "That can never be forgiven."
- And "Somethings are unforgiveable."
Then, I used these four ways to help her discover more about forgiveness:
1.) The Character Has a Need for It or Needs to Know It
I gave my character something huge in her past that she needs to be forgiven for, although she doesn't know that is even possible.
2.) Another Character Models It
Then, my main character witnesses another character in the story forgiving someone else (not the main character). In seeing this modeled, the main character becomes aware that some people are willing to forgive, even though a big part of her distrusts that it's for real.
3.) The Character Experiences It for Her/Himself
Then, my main character experiences being forgiven. She is forgiven by someone other than the character in #2 above.
Had she not seen that other character (in #2 above) forgive someone else, she would not have known or believed it were possible. But because she witnessed it, the closed door in her heart opened just a crack and so when she herself is forgiven, though it is "unbelievable" (according to her former self), she believes it (this is her new, changed self).
4.) S/He Wants To Do That Herself
Because she has experienced forgiveness for that huge secret in her past, she now not only believes forgiveness -- and forgiving -- is possible, but has also experienced the unbelievable feeling of freedom from that burden. This has opened in her a freedom to love and so much more. She now knows it as only someone with first-hand experience possibly can.
With this new-found knowledge and experience, she now knows what she must do -- and she is determined to do it.
In 3-Act structure, this point is the end of Act 2 and the beginning of Act 3. This is the point where she moves forward to the climax of the story, where she puts everything on the line and everything is at stake. She will either gain everything or lose everything. But either way, she moves forward to the climax of the story and there's no looking back, no going back.
All of these different learning experiences become subplots utilizing your secondary characters to carry them out. This, then, fleshes out your story and gives strong support to the middle of your story.
If you're having trouble with your story, I suggest you take a look at your main character. Make sure that their learning and changing is ahead of them, not behind them. Back them up if you need to. Then use the four ideas above to find a way for them to learn what they need to know. You audience will learn with them. Then you can move ahead with your story!
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My Christmas book on sale this month:
I have a limited quantity of my popular Christmas book still available. This book makes a great Christmas study and a great gift. If you'd like one, please order through Amazon's "See All Buying Options" and choose "Connect Books":
|Prophecies Fulfilled in the Birth of Jesus|
Dianne E. Butts
Please order from Connect Books.
Also available, e-books for Writers:
|Cutting the Passive Voice|
|How to Get Published|