Putting Fire in Your Fiction–Part II

The Fire in FictionSince I’m always on a quest to learn more and share it with you, I’ll share a bit from Chapter 1, Protagonists vs. Heroes. My focus will be something that challenged me when I wrote “Meghan’s Choice.” My first incarnation of Meghan Gallagher was that she was a spoiled brat who felt entitled. I know, you want to throw up. Who wants to hear about someone like that? Well, Janette Oke did it in When Calls the Heart. Actually, Elizabeth Thrasher does not feel entitled, or she wouldn’t have gone west. I wanted someone similar, yet different for my protagonist.

The techniques of putting over dark protagonists are applicable to all protagonists. Find the secret strength in your main character, and it won’t matter whether you are working with a hero or an anti-hero. Your readers will bond with both.” Pg. 19

“…think about the people whom you deeply admire. Who are the individuals for whom you would cancel other plans? Who stirs in your awe, respect, humility, and high esteem? Are these regular people, no different than anyone else? They may not be famous but they are in some way exceptional, right?

Fire“Whether they are public figures or just ordinary in profile, our heroes and heroines are people whose actions inspire us. We would not mind spending ten straight hours or even ten days with them. That is important because then hours is about how long it takes to read a novel and tend days is not an uncommon period of time for readers to commit to a single book. When it is your book, what sort of protagonist do you want you readers to meet? One whom they will regard more or less as they do a fellow grocery shopper?

“To create an immediate bond between reader and protagonist, it is necessary to show your reader a reason to care. Pushing a shopping cart is not a reason to care. Demonstrating a character quality that is inspiring does cause readers to open their hearts.” Pg. 10

It’s important to remember that our characters must be human, believable, interesting, yet with the capability to being larger than life, or “great.” Here’s a great definition of who or what great people are like. “…we might agree on one effect of greatness: impact. Great people do not leave the world unchanged. Great characters similarly stir readers and stay with them.” Pg. 27

The practical tools section at the end of the chapter gives you step-by-step instructions about finding a protagonist’s strength, finding a hero’s flaws, and the impact of greatness. Each topic has discussion with it. For example, “Finding a Protagonist’s Strength” as three steps:

  1. Is your protagonist an ordinary person? Find in him any kind of strength.
  2. Work out a way for that strength to be demonstrated within your protagonist’s first five pages.
  3. Revise your character’s introduction to your readers.

“Discussion: Without a quality of strength on display, your readers will not bond with your protagonist. Why should they? No one wants to spend four minutes, let alone four hundred pages with a miserable excuse for a human being or even a plain old average Joe. So, what is strength? It can be as simple as caring about someone, self-awareness, a longing for change, or hope. Any small positive quality will signal to you readers that your ordinary protagonist is worth their time.” Pg. 33

What about you? What do you look for in a hero or heroine? Leave a comment and let me know.

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