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HOW TO CREATE & KILL YOUR DARLING CHARACTERS - 1st 2 Points
By © A P von K’Ory
Point 1: Duelling Desires
We should first start by giving our characters some strong beliefs they care about unconditionally. Make them intriguing and then let them face meaningful and difficult choices by tossing them at least two equally strong convictions that can be placed in opposition to each other. Even an assassin has their own moral code. This could be: never to harm women or children. So make sure you put women and children on their dilemma list. An Imam would rather die than become a Christian. Parents would pay anything to get their kidnapped child back.
Readers want a character with nastitude, tons of spunk, and a solid conviction whether negative or positive. Give readers that, and they will cheer him at the top of their voices, tendons snaking down their necks and their faces crimson. Better still; the readers will never forget this protagonist, which is fabulous when you intend to write a series of books with this protagonist.
An example: A woman wants (a) peace in her home and (b) openness between her and her husband. Therefore, when she suspects that he’s philandering, make her struggle with trying to decide whether or not to confront him about it. But if peace is the only thing she wants, then she could ignore the problem; if openness is the only thing she wants, she would confront him regardless of the results. But her duelling desires won’t allow her such a simple solution. This will create tension. And tension fuels a story forward.
So, find two things that your protagonist is devoted to and then make them choose between the two. Find ways to use their two desires to force them into doing something they don’t want to do.
For instance, a Palestinian’s daughter is killed by a drunken Jewish driver. When the man is released on a technicality, does the Palestinian forgive him (and how would his community take that?) or does he take justice into his own hands? In this case, his (a) human pacifist beliefs are in conflict with his (b) desire for justice as well as saving face in his community. Now ask yourself what the Palestinian would do. Great tension, right there. And great drama
Another example: Suppose your protagonist believes (a) that cultures should be allowed to define their own subjective moralities, but also (b) that women should be treated with the same dignity and respect as men. The protagonist can’t stand the thought of women being oppressed by the cultures of certain countries, but the protagonist also feels it’s wrong to impose their values on someone else. When the protagonist is transplanted to one of those countries, then, what does s/he do?
Create situations in which your protagonist’s equally strong convictions are in opposition to each other, and you will create occasions for thorny moral choices.
Point 2: Test Your Protagonist’s Convictions
Normally, we avoid thinking in this way, and yet in a very real sense, to bribe someone is to pay them to go against their beliefs, right? And to extort someone is to threaten them unless they go against those beliefs. Dobbs’ Urquhart uses these two “means” abundantly and ruthlessly. He has no qualms about having opponents “embarrassed” or killed, or putting them in his annual list for knighthood – at a “price”.
But I digress. Back to our lessons. For example:
Take a vegan. How much would you have to pay them to forget animal rights and eat a steak (bribery)? Or, how would you need to threaten the vegan in order to coerce them into eating the steak (extortion)?
In romance, think of how much it would cost to get the loving, dedicated couple to agree to keep away from each other forever (bribery). Or, how much you would need to threaten them to get them to do this (extortion)?
What would you need to pay the pregnant teenage Catholic girl to convince her to have an abortion (bribery)? What threat could you use to get her to do it (extortion)?
You get the point. Always invent ways to bribe and extort your protagonists. No mollycoddling, like I tend to do. Kill your darling, not the flu virus. As creators of fiction, we sometimes care about our protagonists so much that we don’t want them to suffer. Maybe that’s why no script ever allows James Bond to have his crafty fingers sawed off. As a result, we creative souls literally cringe at the mere thought of putting our protagonists into difficult or dangerous situations.
But, unfortunately perhaps, keeping them safe and comfortable precisely negates what we need to let happen in order for our fiction to be compelling.
So what’s the worst thing you can think of happening to your protagonist, contextually, in your story? Got it? Okay, now challenge yourself: try to think of something else just as terrible, and force your protagonist to decide between the two.
Dig deep to discover your protagonist’s convictions by asking, How far will s/he go to … ? and What would it take for … ? In my Golden Shana series, the love story between Roman and Svadishana (Shana) teeters because Roman is expecting a baby with another woman. He fears that if he tells Shana this truth, he’ll never have and keep her. On the other hand, Roman is a moral person (at least in this regard) and can’t simply abandon his girlfriend and his innocent unborn baby, let alone think of an abortion. Now I need to ask myself
(a) How far will Roman go to hide the truth from Shana?
(b) What would it take for him to stand by and watch his baby grow up not knowing him, the father?
Over to you now.
(a) You as a writer could ask yourself, how far will your heroine go to find freedom?
(b) What would it take for her to choose to be buried alive?
(a) Or, how far will Detective XYZ go to pursue justice?
(b) What would it take for the detective to commit perjury and send an innocent person to life in prison or a death sentence?
As writers we should ask ourselves: What does my protagonist believe in? What priorities does s/he have? What prejudices does s/he need to overcome? Then, put the protagonist’s convictions to the ultimate test to make their truest desires and priorities come to the surface.
Stay tuned for three more pointers next month…
- By A P von K’Ory
Facebook Author Page: https://facebook.com/APVonKORY
GOLDEN SHANA: The Chase
GOLDEN SHANA: The Capture
All my books are also available in Kindle
Author’s Note: I write in British English, so some spellings and phrasal verbs may be unfamiliar to American English speakers.
Strategies for Peace, by Bruce L. Cook and Maria Cristina Azcona (eds.)
BRUCE L. COOK AND MARIA CRISTINA AZCONA - Full Index. I join Maria Cristina Azcona in offering this collection of viewpoints on peace making. She and I joined Ernest Kahan in 2014 to establish the Worldwide Peace Organization in Argentina. Here we identify a startling variety of facets on the crystal which represents peace. Virtually everyone claims to want world peace. Only a few take measures to promote it. Each writer who seeks peace suggests a unique dimension. It's our hope that this volume will encourage students, professors, and peacemakers to consider this comprehensive look at ten strategy perspectives which, if taken seriously in private and public life, might lead to our shared objective - worldwide peace in our time. * Leadership * Language and Leadership * Interspiritual * World Citizenship * Family Relations * Role of Women * Education * Medical Actions * The Arts * Conflict Resolution
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Publishing New Writers,
October 2017 (no. 1810)
Dr. Bruce L. Cook
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