Now that you have loaded your chessboard with opposing characters it is now time to make these plastic pieces real. Keep in mind, we don’t create these characters from a lonely piece of cloth. We create them collectively, so all the pieces come together to draw a clean image. You draw a unique hero, bad guy, and well-formed back characters, now you must make them interact. Interact, not just coexist in the same world. This is where we need to investigate theme and opposition. We will dig deep into theme when we get into chapter 5 and Moral Argument. Before we jump ahead to that we need to take a look at a few key concepts first.
Er…maybe second, cuz first we need coffee. When I say we I mean me. I need a fresh cuppa and a nibble. Today more so than others because I am coming off a fasting for bloodwork to be done. So, I be HANGRY. Like, my attitude is as crunchy as the cereal I am makin’. Nom nom nom nom. Excuse me while I scarf this massive bowl of Chex cereal. To make it worse, my phlebotomist blew right through my vein. Like, in one side and straight out the other. I could feel the bruise forming before the draw was done. We had to switch arms. Yeah, great start to my day and week. But I am fine. No harm done. Just needed food to make things brighter. Now that my belly is happy and my mood is lifting, let’s grab our copies of The Anatomy of Story by John Trudy and turn to page 71. I have the reading rug ready for you and your friends. Join in and read along.
First lesson on theme is: what is it? Theme is your view of the right way to act in the world based on a multitude of topics. Theme is not a subject, like freedom, but the moral vision, your viewpoint on that topic. What freedom is and how it looks to you.
Key Point: You begin individualizing your characters by finding the moral problem at the heart of the premise. You then play out the various possibilities of the moral problem in the body of the story.
This is where you start playing out various possibilities between the hero and their opponent. Start loading sides, like you would with the pieces on the chess board. The good guys-vs-bad guys. Let’s take a look at Mr. Trudy’s technique.
- Write down what you think is the moral of your intended story. You should know, or could know, but it can change as we move forward from here.
- Compare your hero and characters to these parameters:* Weaknesses * Need- both psychological and moral * Desire * Values * Power, status, and ability * How each faces the central moral problem in the story
- When doing these comparisons, start with the most important pairing first. Typically, that would be your hero and the main opponent.
- After comparing good guy and bad guy, compare your hero to the other opponents and then to the allies. Finally, compare the opponents and allies to one another. They should each have a stance on the moral issue as it connects to the hero.
Creating Your Hero
Step 1: Meeting the requirements of a great hero.
The first step in building your hero is to make sure he/she/they meet a few requirements.
- Constantly fascinating. No dead time. Keep your hero moving and doing and advancing ever closer to their goal. Best story killer? A boring hero. Wah-wah…zzzzzzz. Give them pizazz, gumption, and flare. Give your reader a need to turn the page not close the book.
- Make your readers identify with the character, but…not quite. For your reader to identify does not mean they are 100% just like the hero. No. They may share the same sex, age, education, nationality. They may even have shared a similar story but not. When readers say they identify with a character it is typically based on two reasons (1) desire and need, (2) moral problem being faced.
- Make your audience empathize with your hero, not sympathize with them.
- Making your hero likeable will make your readers want them to succeed as much as you do. But some of the most powerful stories told are those where the hero is less than likeable- Dexter. For some reason we were all in watching/reading the horrors Dexter did, but we cheered him on anyway- because he had a moral code.
Key Point: What’s really important is that audiences understand the character but not necessarily like everything he does.
To empathize with someone means you care about and understand them. That is your job as the writer. You need to create a character your readers can connect with.
Key Point: Always show why your hero acts the way he/she/ they do.
- Give your hero a moral and psychological need.
- The best characters have both. Keep in mind- the psychological need should only affect your hero. The moral need is learning to act a certain way around others. By giving your hero both it allows them to connect with more of your readers.
Up next? Creating Your Hero, Step 2: Character Change
Until next time…answer a few questions.
- Are my posts too long or too short?
- Are my posts easy to follow or do you need a trash compactor to get through it all?
- Are my posts a boring snooze-fest that you use as reading material when you need to fall asleep? Or are they as awesome as I think they are?
Please remember that I am not trying to write this book for you word for word. I am skipping a lot of detail. I highly suggest you purchase the book and read between the lines.
Polish your sparkle and keep twirling.
Find joy. Be joy. Enjoy.
I’m always looking for new friends!
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