Your Protagonist’s Inner Journey

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.

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Source Cited:

Gerke, Jeff. The Art & Craft of Writing Christian FictionColorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press, 2009. Print.

(Craft) The First Fiction Box: The Setup

In my last post on the craft of fiction-writing, I discussed structuring your story into four parts or four boxes.  For strong story structure, we must put into each box only those story elements that go into that box. To put something in a box that doesn’t belong in that box will weaken your story.

Today, we are going to take a closer look at the first box called the Setup Box. In this box, you will need to place everything that contributes to setting up your story for the reader.  For example, in this first box, you will need to put the following pieces of your story puzzle:

  • The foreshadowing of the antagonist or the antagonistic force;
  • The stakes of the story; in other words, what your protagonist has to lose if she doesn’t reach her goal;
  • The creation of reader empathy for your character.

The setup is just that: the SET UP.  It is not the beginning of your plot. The beginning of your plot occurs at the First Plot Point which happens at the point you have completely filled Box One and are ready to start filling Box Two. This is where your protagonist experiences the transition from her ordinary life to a life turned upside down.

Next time, we’ll take a look at what goes into Box Two of your story.  For a more in-depth study of this topic, check out Larry Brooks’s excellent book, STORY ENGINEERING.

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Copyright 2013 by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio. All Rights Reserved.