Make Your Characters Work for It 


Fiction at its essence is people in conflict. Our hero has a goal and something or someone is trying to prevent her from getting it.

To write really meaningful fiction, regardless of genre, means making our characters work to get through the conflict and achieve that goal. We can’t make it easy for them. Not if we want a story that will hold the reader’s attention and have them looking eagerly for our next book.

We can’t just bring our protag to a raging river. A river they must cross to catch the bad guy or rescue the girl or escape the evil that’s pursuing them. The river can be physical or metaphorical. Whichever we choose, the river is a source of conflict, an obstacle, something that threatens the life of our hero at some level.

We can’t set our heroine up for a life and death struggle and then have a bridge a hundred yards away. That’s cheating. Mostly it cheats the reader out of an emotional experience.

Our character must come up with a way to get across. I mentioned earlier the obstacle or conflict must threaten the life of our character. This can be a physical threat. It can also be an emotional, psychological, or spiritual threat.

Overcoming this threat must include a way that entails risk and that requires ingenuity and skills on the part of our character. Whatever ingenuity or skills the hero uses must be established earlier in the story. Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch is such a hero. His sheer dogged determination to catch the criminal is established early in each story and it carries Harry through to the solution.

Our heroes must demonstrate strength of will and determination. Don’t give them an easy way out of their dilemma.

What are some ways you use to push your hero to the limits?

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