All people, the real ones and the fictitious ones, are going to have some kind pf physical or psychological obstacles thrown at them at some point in their lives. In order to make your character’s journey seem more believable it is important that you work through precisely how your character would respond to a particular trauma and also to think of how they might adapt themselves to deal with whatever the trauma is. In a sense it’s almost like you have to write out a 5 step program for your characters to work through their problems because if you just said *poof* EVERYTHING’S ALL BETTER, it would seem a bit hard to believe. It would be great if we could all summon “hang-up fairies” to help rid us of all of our troubles, but that just isn’t how things usually work out for normal people so if you want to make your characters seem more relatable to readers it’s a good idea to figure out how to have them sort through their problems.
Sometimes when you’re writing you feel like your characters therapist. You know all their troubles and have listened to all of their desires and dreams, but there will come a time when your character is faced with a dilemma of some sort and you must decide how they should face it and get on with their lives. I like to go step by step through these five stages every time one of my characters is attempting to deal with some sort of trauma, injury, or loss.
- 1. Acknowledgement: The first step for both the character and the writer both is to acknowledge the problem for what it is, and to accept its consequences. It is best when starting out for your character to get a clear picture of what their trauma entails. Think for example, if you were injured in a car accident before you would go about getting over your injuries you would first have to come to a full and complete understanding of what your injuries were.
- Thought/Reflection: In most cases after bad things happen the human mind tends to play them over and over again. Do not shy away from it, use it. When your characters relive their trauma what do they think? What do they learn from it? Does your character alter their memory in any way? Do they invent scenarios to generate sympathy or to justify their behavior? This can also be dangerous, both for fictitious people and real ones, because it can lead to fixation or obsession. You might find that your character is the type who doesn’t really want to get over their emotional trauma and would rather remain tangled in a web of obsession and regret, and if that is the case you might use this step to determine how their obsession would manifest itself.
- Action: Thinking can only get your characters so far. So they have taken time and fully thought through their problem, what do they do then? True, they could have just remained at step number two and assed their situation and feeling again and again, but if your characters have a problem in their lives they are eventually going to have to figure out a way to try and solve it. Have you ever had one of those friends who, whenever you try to offer them a possible solution to a problem they’re venting about they blow up in for face with something like “just let me have my feelings!!”? Well get so caught up in expressing our emotion we never figure out what action we’re going to take to solve the reason we had those emotions in the first place the problem will never be solved. The same thing is true for our characters and in some cases if we let them stew in their emotions for too long their problem will only have the time to get worse.
- Help/Trust: In many cases our characters will find they can’t deal with their problems alone and so they might need outside help. You need to figure out who they would trust to help them. In doing so you’ll need to decide how this person will make your character trust them and also what they’re going to do to help.
- Resolve: Ok so your character understands their issue, has accepted to extent of its fallout, has figured out an action to take, and has gotten some people over onto their side? Now you need to decide how easily your character makes it through these steps. Do they have the will power to see it through to the end? Do they stumble? Do they fall? If they fall, what do they do to keep going? If your character does give up, what will that meant for their psychological and emotional growth?
Have to dash, spring is here and with that comes a huge list of spring chores. See you next time!!!
Exercise of the Day: The Grab Bag
For this exercise I want you to make three piles of paper scraps. Each pile should have 10 piece of paper in in. On the first pile write the names of some of your favorite characters from movies and books. On the second pile write a list of your least favorite characters from movies and books. For the third pile write a different genre on every scrap of paper. When you are done randomly select a piece of paper from each pile and write a story based on what you come up with. For example I had to write a mystery starring Jo March from Little Women and Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. LOL!!!!
Have fun and I will see you next time!!!