It is a fictional truism to say that the best stories are character-driven. Starting with this premise, let’s look at how we can make our protagonist–whether hero or heroine–one who will stand out forever in the memory of your readers.
When creating your protagonist, it is essential that you give her an inner conflict. This inner conflict results from an issue the character has, an issue about which she may not even be aware. But the issue is there, nonetheless, keeping your protagonist from fulfilling her destiny in your story. Unless she faces her issue and deals with it, the issue will eventually “break” her. The story is the protagonist’s process of facing her issue. This process, also known as the character arc, will force her either to deal with her issue or to miss her destiny.
In his excellent book, The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction, novelist and editor Jeff Gerke states: “If great fiction is about bringing the main character to a breaking point over a particular ‘sin,’ then all the events of the story are about bringing the character to that moment” (p. 76).
With what “sin” is your protagonist dealing? Bring your character to an emotionally powerful breaking point over that sin, and watch your fiction move up a notch on the scale of excellence.
Gerke, Jeff. The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction. Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press, 2009. Print.
It’s a known fact that one of the most challenging parts of writing a novel is the middle. Most of us have little trouble building momentum in the beginning of our story and then winding down at the end. But, oh, the middle! How do we keep it from sagging?
Here are a few tips that may help you as they have helped me:
1-Up the stakes for your main character. Usually a middle sags because the tension sags. Ask yourself what new problem you can introduce for your character in the middle of your story. This new problem could be in the form of an unexpected turn of events or even a new character.
2-Introduce a “ticking clock”. Perhaps your main character learns that she must accomplish something by a certain deadline or else something terrible will happen to her or someone she loves.
3-Introduce a complication. This could be something in your main character’s past that has been hidden up until this point.
4-Put the main character in a new location, preferably one she didn’t anticipate. Adding a new dimension to your story almost always causes reader interest to rise. Perhaps your main character’s boss taps her to go on a business trip on the other side of the world. Depending on her occupation, perhaps she is assigned to handle a secret mission of some sort.
5-Reveal something from the main character’s past that has serious implications in her life now. This could be virtually anything. Perhaps she discovers she has a half-brother she never knew about. Or perhaps she learns that the man she thought was her father is not her father.
You can avoid a sagging middle if you plan ahead. If your interested in more information on doing so, check out Alicia Rasley’s article, Tightening the Sagging Middle.
Copyright 2010 by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio. All rights reserved. This article may not be published or reprinted in any way or by any means without the written permission of the author. Violators will be prosecuted.
As the end of 2013 fast approaches, I’ve been reconsidering the focus of this blog. For a good while now, I’ve been blogging on the ABCs of fiction writing: Attitude, Business, and Craft. On Mondays, I have been blogging about the attitude a fiction writer needs to succeed. On Wednesdays, I’ve been discussing the business aspect of fiction writing, and on Fridays, I’ve been posting on the craft of writing fiction.
I am considering streamlining my focus to only the craft of writing fiction. Before I do this, however, I would like to ask you, my faithful readers, if you think you would glean more from a craft focus or if you would like to see me continue the ABC approach.
Please let me hear from you. I write this blog to serve you and the Christian fiction writing community. Your input would be greatly appreciated.
Copyright 2013 by MaryAnn Diorio, PhD. All Rights Reserved.