‘The place where you made your stand never mattered. Only that you were there…and still on your feet.’ ~Stephen King
We don’t want to read books about eternal cowards, characters who avoid problems, and people who never learn to fight back.
As a reader, I am not looking for Superman in every character, but I do want characters to find that extraordinary something they never knew they had, or to admit that they will never have it. I want them to make a stand. If they don’t, I feel as if I am watching a tacky reality television show where nothing changes.
3 Simple Ways To Get Your Hero To Make A Stand
But how do novelists get characters to make this stand? If you are struggling to get your characters to show their true colours, here are three ways to force your hero to act:
1. A Relentless Antagonist
Use a villain who will not wait for things to happen. He will force your protagonist to fight or surrender. He could do this physically, or he could manipulate him into a situation where the protagonist is forced to make a choice. This adversary will block escape routes and remove your hero’s lifelines. The villain could threaten the protagonist’s life, or the life of someone he cares about. He could spread rumours and tell lies about the hero and force him to lose his wife, his home, his job.
2. Lock The Doors
Put your protagonist in a setting where she is forced to confront the antagonist. This is also a great way to introduce setting without boring your reader. If you make the environment part of the problem, it becomes easier to describe it. You can place them in a social setting, like the protagonist’s daughter’s wedding, where it is not easy for her to walk out. You can literally let the antagonist lock her up somewhere, or you can place the adversaries on a train or a plane.
3. Set The Timer
Give your protagonist a time where she has to do something or face terrible consequences. This technique allows you to force her hand. There is no more time to think or plan. She has to react and fight back, or lose. It does not have to be a melodramatic deadline, such as saving the world. She may have to get to the airport by midnight because her long-lost son is leaving town for good. Does she have the courage to finally tell him that he loves him? She may have to be at work by 8 a.m. or lose her job. Will she show that she is responsible, or does she finally have the courage to leave a job she hates?
If you do show me that your character has backbone, and that he or she is prepared to fight, I will probably enjoy your book. If you can show me how he or she changes and grows as a person, I will like it even more. Even if they try and fail, I will know that there was something worthwhile in them.
Atticus Finch makes his stand.
As Stephen King says, ‘No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side. Or you don’t.’
Show me that journey. Let your character make his stand.
- 7 Essential Things To Remember About Very Important Characters
- 10 Essential Tips for Creating Antagonists
- Is Your Antagonist A Match For Your Hero?
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