Writing Secrets: Your character can’t be a wuss

 In Tips for Writers

Characters need to be active participants in their own fate.

This might sound like obvious advice but I’ve been reading a number of manuscripts recently in which events simply overtake the characters, and continue to do so through the story.

It’s not enough simply to allow events to happen to him, one after another. There must be some driving impetus.

If you’re not certain about whether your character is being active or passive, think of it this way. He must want something badly. If he wants nothing, then by definition he’s passive and there’s not much point writing a story about him.

If he wants nothing to begin with, and if events are overtaking him in a sickeningly monotonous way, something must force him to catch a wake up, start wanting something and set out to do something about it.

Think of the series Breaking Bad. There was a perfectly happy man, without much money or too many prospects (but that was okay) … Events overcame him and fate dealt him a blow. He got cancer. He needed money – badly.

So after feeling suitably sorry for himself, he pulled himself together and set about achieving his heart’s desire: his very own crystal meth lab. Great.

Events, people, the environment and fate will all conspire to stand in your character’s way, but if you don’t know what he wants, neither will he – and then where will you both be?


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