Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Seven Characters That Will Strengthen Your Story

This is a great tool for outlining a new idea, but I mostly find its real worth when I'm revising. During this phase of writing I need to add meat to the bones of the story. I want to make sure the characters stay true, but this exercise also helps me tweak out something unexpected from them.

The Protagonist:

The character whose goal and transformation drives the story.



Needs to be likable. Show the reader the redeeming qualities as soon as you can.

Needs to be in trouble. What does she want and why can't she get it.

Needs to have a weakness. Primarily it should be her weakness that is her downfall. Whatever she fears the most should be the thing she needs to overcome at the end.

Needs to sacrifice something to get what she wants. She'll risk pursuit of a goal that she feels has a greater significance than her own comfort zone. Show how she changes/learns/grows through this transformation. In the end, she'll have to battle obstacles that would have stopped her at the beginning of the story.



The Antagonist:
The character whose goal drives the conflict and push the protagonist toward transformation.



Needs to have motives that make their ambitions opposite to those of the protagonist. Why are they in competition with the protagonist?

Needs to make sense. They can't be evil for evil's sake. Give them their own story arc. After all, the villain thinks they are the hero of the story.

Needs to be interesting, mysterious, and a little stronger than your protagonist.

Needs to go after goals in a way that sets up obstacles for protagonist to overcome, the more entertaining and extreme, the better.

Needs to have own transformation. Do they become a better person or do they get more desperate?


A Foil:

A character used to reflect and illuminate specific aspects of the progtagonist's strengths and weaknesses.




Needs to serve as an example or voice of reason through the story. Helps protagonist learn essential lesson.

Needs to be contrast to protagonist's logic.

Should have own character arc throughout story, but more behind the scenes than on the page.



A Threshold Guardian:

Someone who likes things the way they are and opposes the protagonist when she wants to change the situation.





Can be an ally of either the protagonist or the antagonist, or a completely neutral party.

Should be introduced to the reader before the turning point of the story.

Should add conflict to the B story by testing the protagonist or antagonist by pushing them to solve their problem by making discoveries or creating conflict by their actions.

Helps propel the story forward by either helping or hindering the protagonist.

May be come a mentor by the end.



A Mentor:

Someone in the story who give the protagonist answers, tools, or advice she needs to achieve her transformation or reach her goal.





Similar to the foil, but has a direct influence on helping the protagonist win past the threshold guardian.

Provides help to the protagonist based on respect or love or kindness. Through their actions, protagonist makes choices that lead to their change/growth.

May have a story arc of her own. Could be a
foil who has fallen on hard times and resurrects for one last stand against the antagonist. Or she may be the foil who can't be brave enough when it comes to the showdown.
    A Minion:

    An agent of the antagonist or someone who wants the same thing as the antagonist does.




    May oppose the protagonist for different reason, but assists the antagonist to help reach their goal as they share same desire to see protagonist fail.

    Unlike a mentor, the minion is motivated to help antagonist by greed or hate.


    A Ficelle:

    A character who helps you avoid infodump but may create worse problems.



    Has same motives as protagonist, but doesn't have the same obstacles.

    Is useful for discovering information through dialogue or action that will help add detail or clues about the story without baring all the responsibility on the protagonists story line.

    Is the most effective when they are introduced in a way that will be brought back and tied in to the story resolution.

    How do you outline your list of characters? Who else would you include?
     

    5 comments:

    1. Great post! Thanks for breaking it down like this!

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      Replies
      1. Thanks for dropping by. Glad it was helpful!

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    2. Very interesting post! Never before looked at it quite this way. Thanks!

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    3. Thank you so much for this post. Now I have to go through each item and check my previous work to see if I hit all the marks...or not! :-)
      I also like learning there are roles for side characters. For instance, I never heard of "threshold guardian." And now I will have to think if I have any of those! Very enjoyable read. Thank you.

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