Last week I discussed the six questions you should try to answer before you start your first draft. This week I want to discuss number one; identify your protagonist and antagonist, in more detail.
- Identify your protagonist and antagonist. This seems so elementary, but it is often tricky, especially when it comes to antagonists. It is easier when you have to find a killer or a kidnapper, but sometimes it takes some thinking about. Without these two characters you will find it hard to get going, because this is where your conflict comes from. And we want to read about conflict. Your protagonist has a goal and your antagonist opposes that goal.
- Identify your protagonist’s goal. Your protagonist needs a concrete goal. This goal will help get you through your story and it will help you identify your antagonist, because he or she is the one who opposes that goal. For example, Frodo’s goal is to destroy the ring in Mount Doom. Sauron wants the ring. This gives us the conflict that drives the story.
- Where are they? Once you know who is fighting and what they are fighting about you can find obstacles to throw in their paths. Besides the conflict between two characters, the setting can add to their woes. If your story is set in space, make them run out of oxygen. This ups the odds for both characters, unless your antagonist is an anaerobic alien with orange, bloodsucking tentacles. If your story is set on plain old earth, add traffic, earthquakes and power cuts. If they are in a forest they can get lost, twist an ankle. If they are at the beach let them forget the sunscreen, throw sand in their eyes, and summon a shark. Not all conflict needs to come from the antagonist.
- Who shares your protagonist’s life? The love interest and sidekick or friend can help you and your protagonist or they can complicate the crap out of the protagonist’s life. Think insecure girlfriend, heroin junkie BFF. Anything that makes it harder for them. This can also help you develop your sub-plots.
- Where do they come from? Backstory is good, but only for the writer. Not so much for the reader. Use it to add depth and to create a full story. Do not feel obligated to add it all to your story.
This helps me to plan my story. It gives me at least twenty or thirty scenes to start with and I pan out the rest as it develops. Nothing is cast in stone, but it helps to get me on my way. Next week I’ll discuss number two; tell your story in three lines, in more detail.
by Mia Botha
If you enjoyed this post, you will love: