Saturday, October 7, 2017

Don't insult your readers or take away the joy of discovery.

Don't insult your readers’ intelligence or take away the joy of discovery. Remember, when we meet people and they become our friend, we discover their background over a period of weeks or even years. We don't learn everything about them right away. Characters are the same.

I watched a TV drama set in England where a family obtained a lifelike “synth.” The mother did not like the synth, but we didn’t know why.
However, it was not until the sixth episode [chapter] we found out why. As a she was supposed to be watching her little brother. Tragically, he ran into the street and died when a car hit him. This explained a lot about her character, but we were not told it at the beginning, only after the story had been completely started. We liked her. Now we understood why.

Although it's important for you to know about your protagonist’s past, you need only use enough background to make the character's emotional state clear to readers. Readers won’t be interested in characters who have no goals. A character becomes real through consistent acts and dialogue, which attempts to fulfill the character's goals. They also want the protagonist to be driven to reach their goals.

More important is the protagonist’s self-concept, a key to creating a fictional character who seems like a real person to your readers. Human beings have their own idea of who they are. It is their own self-concept. As a rule, people behave consistently with this self-concept. When they don't, there's conflict in their lives. Be sure you know your protagonist’s self-concept.

Protagonists can be emotional and passionate about things, which matter to them. The story centers on them; most of it will be from their point of view. Protagonists will need a problem to solve, and they do it with the help of other characters.

Create a protagonist who is likeable and realistic enough so that readers will care about them.

Your protagonist should be multifaceted and complex, who has traits readers can identify with. Protagonists should have some flaws and quirks. Make them vulnerable. This will evoke empathy in readers; thus reinforcing their connectivity.

Readers love to see the protagonist overcome weakness to become stronger. A just, moral fight endears readers because they share the same feelings. Protagonists have personal problems, just like real people. We all carry emotional baggage. Everyone has a past, a history. We carry burdens from childhood to adulthood. Protagonists do, too.

Your protagonist moves the story forward and toward an ultimately satisfactory conclusion. The protagonist will have a major objective, a goal to achieve, be it love, revenge, survival or happiness. Something should drive them. Protagonists shouldn’t be the same at the end of the story as they were at the beginning because the story affects and changes them. Readers identify with this.

When creating your protagonist, be they male, female or robot; think about these universally recognized traits for a protagonist:

o They are determined even when the situation seems dire.
o They care about others and follow a moral code.
o They will do extraordinary things, make sacrifices and succeed against all odds.

The protagonist will do anything to protect those they love, even when it means turning weaknesses into strengths. Frequently your protagonist will change and become a better person and learn a valuable lesson through what happens to them. Above all, make your protagonist as real as possible. They are ordinary people doing something extraordinary.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)

Lary Crews