Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Giving Characters a Chance to Grow

In the book I’ve just finished writing, my protagonist is a successful, self-assured, retired museum curator. She’s moved to a small Southern town to be near her daughter and get a break from the hectic pace of her life.

Of course, things don’t go all that smoothly for my character. Besides getting mixed up in a murder investigation (the main plot), she’s also faced with a number of challenges on a smaller scale—everything from dealing with the change of pace, to learning quilting (something she’d had no plans of ever learning.) My protagonist is pushed from her comfort zone at every opportunity.

Looking for the perfect way to challenge your character? Ask yourself how they view themselves. What do they think they’re good at? What do they find personally challenging?

Why we should play to a character’s weaknesses instead of their strengths:

It gives them the opportunity to fail. Who likes perfect characters?

It gives them the opportunity to try again. And persistence is a likeable trait.

It provides additional conflict for your book. Sure we’ve got the main plot and all the conflict that goes with it. But extra conflict adds tension to a book and makes for an interesting subplot that can motivate the reader to keep reading to see how the character deals with it.

It gives them an opportunity to ultimately succeed. Because we all like to see hard work rewarded.

Have you given your characters a chance to grow lately?