Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How I became a Plotter: Characters

Art by Me

Protagonist drives Plot. NOT the other way around. Take note of the illustration. Memorize it.

In my recent quest to become a plotter, I have done a bit of online researching and learning. This character-driving-the-plot thing may be the single most important thing I've learned so far.

Sooo I may be a little late to the party on this crucial writing tip* but at least I'm here and I brought a party gift**. Apparently, many beginning writers (myself included) come up with a fantastic idea or situation and a likeable character and put that character into the situation like a game piece to be moved around, experiencing all sorts of interesting things.

While the character may indeed be interesting and the situations unique and entertaining, if your character is not in the driver's seat, your story will not be believable or keep your readers hooked.

Here's the big question: HOW do your get your character in the driver's seat??

Give your character weaknesses.
For serious. It's so simple I want to slap myself.

Your character's weakness give them reasons to be in specific plot situations. Situations that will challenge him and help him grow into the true hero you want him to be at the end of your story***.

So how does this apply to plotting? I found an exercise for you!

1. Because it is often easier to make a list of your hero's strengths, follow this link to a list of strengths.
2.Take those strengths and exaggerate them to the point that they become weaknesses.
3. Think up a few situations that might help a person overcome those weaknesses.
4.Map out ALL of your characters weaknesses in a mad plotting frenzy!
(Tip: Try this for your Antagonist too! Even villains have strengths, they are simply masked by how exaggerated they've become)

For a details about this exercise and to read more about why it's important for characters to have weaknesses, check out the blog post I learned from here.

Next Time: Tying your characters weaknesses into your plot. (Also - the character sheet to end all character sheets!)
Previous Post: Getting your Novel Idea

*As a pantser I kind of made this happen through lots of trial, error, and revising until a situation made sense for my character. This, of course, required much deleting of scenes that were 'cool' but served no purpose.

** Right-click approved. Save and share my illustration with your writerly friends!

***Unless you are writing a tragedy, in which case your MC will not grow and overcome his weaknesses.

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