Writing Tip of the Week: A Cinematic Writing Assignment

What’s your favorite movie?  What makes that particular film stand out from the rest of the millions that exist?  What is it about that story, its characters, or its themes that left an impression on you?

Time to do a little homework.

I know, I know.  Homework.  Booooooring!  I get it.  But, this is creative homework.  This is your chance to do a deep dive into your favorite film and get to the heart of why it affects you and why you enjoy it.  In turn, this exercise will help you as a writer by giving insight into how they create a compelling story, how they utilize storytelling structure, and how they create compelling characters.

What You Need

  • Grab a notepad or legal pad and a pen or pencil.
  • A copy of your favorite movie.
  • Your Analytical Cap.
  • Good Pause Button skills (you’ll be using this a lot).

Think of yourself as a story archaeologist.  Your mission is to unearth the storytelling secrets hidden beneath the surface of the film you chose.  

Viewing #1

I know it’s your favorite, but as you go through this first time, write down your favorite moments and note at what time or on what page number they occur.  Was it a plot point that intrigued you?  A clever line of dialogue?  A character moment?  Write it down and write down why you reacted the way you did to that element.

Do this for the whole movie, then read back through what you observed.

Viewing #2

This round is all about the story.  In one or two sentences, write down what happens in each scene that moves the story forward.  What’s the main conflict in each scene?  You can number the scenes or write a general location of where the scene takes place.

If scenes are revolving around a sub-plot, see how that smaller story is resolved or if it dovetails into the main story.

By the end, you should be able to go back through your notes and see the primary story arc evolve throughout the film.  Does each scene feed into the next?  Do you notice a pattern as to when the story has significant changes?  

All screenplays have a basic story structure.  There are dozens of ways to break down that structure, but for the purposes of this exercise, I’ll refer you to The Syd Field Paradigm below:

If the screenwriter did their job correctly, these elements should be crystal clear and easy to identify as you review your notes.  Highlight or underline what you feel these moments are.

Viewing #3

This final round is all about character.  Your job is to watch how the main character changes over the course of the story.  What traits do they have at the start of the story?  Do they become a better person or a worse person by the end?  

This is another scene-by-scene breakdown.  Write down in a couple sentences what the main character is doing, how they’re acting, what you feel their motivation or conflict is in the scene.  As you go through, you should be able to see their discernable character arc as they navigate their way through the ups and downs of the plot.  How does the story impact who they are as a character?  How do they impact the events of the story?  

Read back through and see if you can clearly identify when the writer began to make changes in the character and how those changes altered the main character by the end of the story.

So, What Did We Learn?

So, now you’ve watched your favorite film three more times and have done some digging into its inner workings.  By breaking the movie into its basic components, you have a clearer picture of how this screenwriter crafted a compelling story with an interesting main character.  You can see where the story beats are, where the direction of the story changes, and how those elements either impact the main character’s arc or how their arc impacts the story.

Keep this exercise in mind when you finish a draft of your screenplay, play, or novel.  If you were to sit down and do this exercise with your work, could you summarize what’s happening in each scene in a sentence or two?  Would those sentences be enough to show the main story’s arc throughout the narrative?  Does your main character evolve over the course of the story?  What happens to cause the change from start to finish?

Consider doing this exercise with your own work to help you strengthen your story and main character in your different drafts.

Extra Credit

Now, if you enjoyed that exercise, why not try it with a movie you strongly dislike?  I know it can be hard to stomach a film you can’t stand, but take the emotion out and look at it from an analytical perspective. 

The first time through, write down all the elements you dislike and why.  If anything does work for you, write it down.

The second and third viewings should be done similar to the ones stated above.  You may find that the story arc and/or main character arc are weak and lacking in a lot of ways.

How would you, as this film’s screenwriter, fix these weaknesses?  When you read back through, brainstorm what you would have done to make the story and character elements stronger and more effective.

You can learn a lot from both good and bad films by breaking their stories down into their component parts.  I highly recommend reading screenplays for films as well.  Screenplays give you the nuts and bolts of story and character without the distraction and spectacle so you can analyze things even more in-depth.  I recommend checking out the link below to find screenplays to break down and analyze.

Happy writing and analyzing. I’ll see you next week!

The Road to Midnight House: An Author’s Journey – Part Three

Last week, I talked about my seemingly haphazard writing process.  While I admit that this is how I generally operate, that is only in the beginning.  When it comes to the actual task of writing, I take the job very seriously.  It may take some time for me to sit down in front of the computer and begin the process, but I know – especially when it comes to my novels – that I am writing as professional as possible.  

During the initial phases, it’s okay to be a little loose with your grammar, spelling, syntax, etc.  But once you get past the rough/first draft phase, it’s time to hunker down and do the needed work to produce a professional product.

Let’s talk about the drafting process.

Don’t Try and Dodge the (First) Draft!

Rough drafts and first drafts are always pretty rough reads.  But that’s a good thing.  Why?  Because you are now able to visually read your story on the page and see exactly what works, what doesn’t, where to add, where to cut, and where things actually work the first time.  

You can’t edit what hasn’t been written, and this is now your chance to read through the draft and notate where things need to be changed, added, etc.  

With Midnight House, this was my tactic.  And the first draft was short, character arcs didn’t finish, the current opening didn’t exist, and there were missing elements that I knew had to be added ASAP.

And all of this takes time.  And it should take time. It’s all part of the process.

I also tend to write multiple drafts of chapters/scenes then merge the strongest parts of these versions together.  This, of course, can cause continuity issues if things aren’t fixed during the revision process. If Character A drives a Ford Mustang at the beginning of the story, you want to make sure they don’t suddenly drive a Dodge Charger later on because you wrote them driving a different car in a previous draft.

The urge will be strong to stop reading and start rewriting as you go, but be strong and keep reading and making notes about what you want to fix.  That way, you have a clear picture of the entire story as it’s currently assembled.

Once you’ve done this, you can now take that trusty editing sledgehammer and demolish the pieces of your draft don’t work and rebuild them with stronger, more effective structures.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

Writing a novel, a play, a screenplay, or a poem takes time.  It takes patience.  You won’t nail it 100% after your first rewrite, second, or even your sixth.  With your story now fleshed out and in a tangible, malleable space, your creative brain is now firing on all cylinders 24/7, fixing plot holes, revising dialogue, enhancing description, and making you a better writer.

Once I’m into a story, I keep it top of mind.  I work through the narrative in my head, figuring out issues and potential story problems.  Figuring out new twists and ideas to enhance the suspense, the excitement, the humor.  I have actually been on a walk at work and realized a significant plot hole existed and rushed back inside to email myself a potential fix to the problem.

Make sure that when you do begin a new draft, you date the draft in the filename to know that you’re working on the most current version.  I didn’t do this on The Field, and it was a headache trying to track down the most recent version. Don’t be like me.  Do something like The Field_DraftThree_02062018.  Then each day you revise, you Save As… and change the date.  

Take Your Time, and Take Some Time

As you complete each draft, give yourself some breathing room away from your story. Don’t worry; your brain won’t let you forget about it.  This gives you some distance and objectivity regarding your story and will help you make harder decisions easier when editing.  Sometimes it can be hard to let go of a favorite line of dialogue or a chapter that you love, even if it’s not working in a newer draft.  

Giving yourself a week or two between rewrites can help refresh your mind and allow your brain to subconsciously identify story issues in the previous draft.  Again, I’ve had this happen where I’m taking a break between drafts and realize that a chapter falls flat and needs to be cut.  

Keeps notes on any changes, cuts, or additions you want to make, but don’t go back to start a new draft until you feel you have to dive back in.

The Writer Wears Many Hats

Once you are secure in what you have written and have a strong story containing all you want the reader to experience, it’s time to think like an editor.  Yes, you want to pass your manuscript off to someone you trust to edit and give feedback, but you should be the first person who takes the initial pass as the manuscript’s editor.

You know what you want to say.  You know what story you want to tell.  The tone.  The themes.  The characters and their characterizations.  Who better to go through and ensure that all of those things are 100% how they are intended to be?  You are that person.

This is a systematic process.  Take it one sentence at a time.  Set small daily goals at first.  Read through. Does everything in this paragraph make sense?  Does it serve a purpose in the story?  Does it deliver information about character or plot?  Does each chapter move the story forward?  Are there moments where things lag?  Why? What’s the problem?  How can it be fixed?  Can that section be cut to tighten things up?  

Remember, you are Editor now, not Writer.  Your role here is to make sure things are clear for the reader as you want them to be.  If you feel new content needs to be added, make a note of it and keep going.  

I would like to also note that during this stage, cutting stuff is fine.  Adding new stuff should wait until after this editing process is complete.  That way, you know if what you think you need to add is redundant or even necessary as you progress through the story.

Midnight House has many characters involved in a lot of activities, so this was a great process to use multiple times to focus on each character.  This ensured that their arcs were solid, that their interactions with other characters and story arcs worked, and continuity in their characterizations and dialogue (especially if parts of merged drafts were used) were consistent.

You’ve done it!  Your hard work has paid off, and you now have a solid manuscript with a great story and characters.  Congratulations!

Now it’s time to give your story to a new set of trusted eyes and get their feedback, input, and editing suggestions.

Next week, we’ll talk about getting feedback, finalizing your manuscript, and getting it ready to publish.  

See you next week!

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The Road to Midnight House: An Author’s Journey – Part Two

Last week, I talked about the beginning stages of developing Midnight House into the second book in The Field series. This week, I wanted to talk a little more about pre-writing, how I write, and a little about my drafting process.

What’s It All About?

Every book, every film, every TV series, documentary, and play are about something. Whether the issues presented are profound or topical, these themes are a way to help the writer structure a sense of meaning into the story. All writers want to tell a story about characters going through things they want to discuss with the reader/viewer. These themes can be expressed directly or indirectly, but they are an essential part of crafting a narrative.

For Midnight House, I knew I wanted to continue with Daniel’s story from the first book, so I researched the lasting effects of childhood trauma and its impact on the victim and their families. Needless to say, this was rather grim research, but I found the elements I was looking for to use in the story.

With Kyle, I wanted to explore high school sports but more specifically, sports hazing. This also sent me down a dark road that helped inform Kyle’s arc throughout the story.

This research helped me to nail down these thematic elements to ensure a truth to them while also allowing me to take creative license in how the characters dealt with these specific issues.

While there are many other themes explored in Midnight House, these two overarching story elements help the main characters change and evolve throughout the story.

Be Prepared

When you apply for a job, there are many steps people do to get ready. Most people don’t just jump online and start applying; there is work to be done before the hunt begins:

  • Research into available jobs one qualifies for.
  • Writing a cover letter.
  • Crafting a resume.
  • Committing people to be personal references or write letters of recommendations.

These steps can take time, and while you may be itching to apply for jobs, taking the time to get the prep work out the way will help you in the long run.

Writing a novel is a lot like this. You want to be prepared. You want to know where the story is going, have a sense of where the characters’ arcs are headed, and know what the story is about. Jumping in headfirst into writing a novel can be an exercise in futility; you probably will run out of steam pretty fast once you realize that you don’t have a plan.

This doesn’t mean you need to plan out every chapter, but you need to sit down and figure out the basics: beginning, middle, end; big story moments; relationships between characters; know your protagonist and antagonist and why they are in opposition. Now you have a basic roadmap to work from. You can change things and alter the route as you go, but giving your story a direction gives yourself a key to completion.

With Midnight House, I sat down with a legal pad and started to map out all these items listed above. It took time, but I needed to get the ideas on paper, figure out sequencing, figure out what story elements should go where, and work on how Daniel’s and Kyle’s stories would intersect throughout the novel.

Organizing Chaos

Last week, I talked about how I have story notes and ideas on my phone, on a legal pad, and on my laptop. Once I had a clearer picture of how the story would unfold, I took the notes from my legal pad and phone and added them to the Word doc on my computer. At this point, the goal was to get them on the computer to be saved; I wasn’t worried about the order they were being added in.

Not yet.

That was the next step. I started a new Word doc and started the painstaking process of going through the notes and putting them into a rough sequence in the new document. Midnight House happens over several days, so I was able to decide what events would happen on what days to help make a more organized – if still rough – outline.  

Now I could see the story taking shape. I could see what ideas worked and which ones didn’t in service of the story and characters. 

Organizing your notes like this will help you see your story in its rudimentary stages and show you how much more work is to be done to flesh out the story. Read through these organized notes and if an idea comes as you read, add it where you feel it belongs in the story.

Let Your Story Loose in Your Brain

When I’m working on a story, I let it invade my brain 24/7. If I’m on a walk or a run, I’m working out the story. If I’m reading or relaxing, I’m working on the story. If I’m asleep, my brain works on the story. You may not be sitting with a pad and pen or in front of a computer, but these moments of creative thinking allowing your conscious and subconscious mind to work on the story are part of the process.  

Make sure when something pops up that gets you excited to write it down and add it to the rough outline when you can.

I used this technique throughout the writing process for Midnight House. I would often find myself stuck on a story element, or maybe even a scene between two characters, and I would allow my brain to process through as many possible outcomes as possible. When the right decisions kicked in, and the ideas started to flow, I knew I had the missing piece to help me move the chapter and story forward.

This is all part of the process and a needed part at that.

My Writing Process

I’ll let you in on a little secret: as a writer, I lack discipline. I don’t write every day. I don’t set hard and fast goals for myself. I often will choose to watch a movie or a TV show instead of writing. I sometimes get anxious and overwhelmed at the thought of writing something as big as a novel.

And, yet, I’ve written two. So, how did that happen?

When it comes to writing, I take a filmmaking approach. Films are shot out of sequence and reassembled in the editing bay once the shooting has wrapped. I write the stuff I want to write when I want to write it. If I feel inspired to write the final chapters of the story, I’ll work on those. If I want to take time to focus on chapters about one character, I write those. Maybe there’s an emotional scene that I know will be a challenge to write, so I only work on that for that day.  

Each element is saved in its own file on the computer, labeled, and dated, so I know what it is. And slowly but surely, the files, pages, and story begin to grow and emerge into a cohesive narrative.

All of these chapters will be rewritten later on, some will be cut entirely, and others will get moved around. But they do get written.

If you already have a writing process that works for you, keep it. Every author has a unique way, place, and time when they write. The key is to get the work done. Even if it takes longer than outsiders think it should. I believe that crafting a quality story that you’re proud of is far more important than rushing the process.

Find what works for you and try it for a while. If you want to be more productive, make the necessary changes. For example, for my next book, I will plan a more rigid writing schedule so I can get a draft done faster.  

Baby Steps

As I said above, I don’t always set hard and fast goals for my writing time, and there’s a reason I don’t: I tend to psych myself out. I will be at work and decide to write 10,000 words over the weekend. Then, I get home, and Saturday morning arrives, and I’ve overwhelmed myself with a goal that I’m not sure I can meet.

Don’t do this to yourself. Make a small choice: “I’m going to work on the chapter at the junkyard Saturday.” Done. Now that’s all you have to work on. If you decide to keep writing or realize there’s a chapter related to this later on that you want to write, keep going.  

If you know your story, your characters, and your themes, and a rough outline (thanks to your notes), you have the necessary information you need to start writing your story.

Take your time, and you’ll get there.

Remember, No One Likes Their First Draft

There’s a reason why it’s called a First Draft. It’s usually filled with chapters that go on too long. Characters that ooze BORING on the page. Dialogue that doesn’t flow or sound real. Plot points that just don’t work or go nowhere.

And we all have to accept this, deal with this, and make it better.

Every published book you have on your bookshelf or have seen in a bookstore or on Amazon began with a crappy first draft. It’s inevitable. But, here’s the neat part about that first draft: It exists.

That’s right. You can’t fix and edit and improve upon nothing, and that lackluster first draft is now an opportunity for you to elevate and bring to light a better story than the one drafted before you.

Next week, I’ll dive into what I do to make my initial draft better, how I get it ready to send to my editor and feedback partner, and how I deal with notes, and deciding when the book is done.

See you next week!

GET YOUR COPY OF MIDNIGHT HOUSE ON BOOKBABY AND USE THE PROMO CODE HOUSE20 TO SAVE 20% OFF THE PAPERBACK AT CHECKOUT.  CLICK HERE TO ORDER

The Road to Midnight House: An Author’s Journey – Part One

I learned a lot about the writing process while writing my first novel, The Field, but learned even more from writing Midnight House.  Over the next several weeks, I want to share my writing process, the publishing process, and the marketing process to help you succeed in publishing your book as an indie author.

The Idea

While working on The Field, I initially had no intention of turning it into a series.  After all, if I was going to publish the book myself, maybe one book was enough—something to check off my list of things I’ve always wanted to do.

And then, I let a few people read it.

It wasn’t the published version, but those who read it liked it and offered their notes.  When I met Kathleen, who became my editor, she read it and encouraged me to turn it into a series.  

So, I started to think about how I could do that, and a few years before The Field was a published novel, I began to work out possible story ideas for a second novel.

I knew that I wanted the characters to be older, but I was unsure of the second book’s storyline.  But I wrote down several ideas.  Like all brainstorming/pre-writing sessions, some of it was worth keeping, but most were ridiculous and would eventually be left in the dust.

The big question I had for myself was if I should continue the story from the first book or do a standalone with the characters doing something unrelated to the first story.

I wanted to do something with Kyle that was sports-related, which ended up happening, but Daniel at the early phases had no real place or direction in the story.  He was a school newspaper reporter.  He was in ASB.  He was this, that, and the other thing, but he didn’t feel grounded in the story.  

Early Development

That’s when I decided to dig deeper into the minds of my two main characters.  Who were they before the events of The Field?  How did those events change them not just externally but internally?  

Doing a deep dive into who your characters are, what makes them tick, and how traumatic events can impact them going forward can help you shape more dimensional and grounded characters.  So, as I sketched out Daniel and Kyle after the first book, I discovered things that would give Daniel and Kyle stronger story arcs in the second book and give the other characters material to work off of.  

I had to decide how old they would be in the second book, which would inform what they were able to do and not do in terms of their ages, and I also started to brainstorm ideas for new characters they would encounter in their new story.  I also had to decide who from the first novel would carry-over to book two and what they would be up to at that point.

Now that I started to flesh out character arcs, I developed story ideas that would be interesting and provide the needed elements of action-adventure that are key elements of the series.  This is where things get fun for any writer since, at this stage, anything and everything is a possibility.  I chose Redding locations where I felt different action pieces could take place and worked through various scenarios.  Some over-the-top, some less so.

All the while, I’m thinking of how the main characters, other characters, the overall story, and these action moments will all come together in a clear and compelling narrative. 

But I was nowhere near that stage yet.

Notes, Notes, and More Notes

Part of the early brainstorming and development process is writing down your ideas.  All ideas.  I have my Notes app on my phone filled with snippets of dialogue or scenes that I thought of while I was at work.  A legal pad by my bed in case an idea strikes me at 3AM.  And a file on my laptop for ideas so I can type furiously as the ideas flow.  

I’m a writer that has a hard time just sitting and waiting for ideas to come.  I usually am doing something when they hit me, so having a way to jot down ideas on the go is much better than saying to yourself, “This is a great idea. Can’t wait to get home and write it down!” (SPOILER ALERT: The idea will probably be gone by then.)

Dozens of Note app files.  Lots of legal pad pages.  More than one Word document (I started breaking ideas into separate files by character).  Somewhere in all these places was a complete story.  Now I had to start taking these ideas, these fragments, these notes, and crafting them into a narrative.

Next week, I’ll take you through the outline process and the first draft’s early stages.  See you then!

GET YOUR COPY OF MIDNIGHT HOUSE ON BOOKBABY AND USE THE PROMO CODE HOUSE20 TO SAVE 20% OFF THE PAPERBACK AT CHECKOUT.  CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Don’t be Afraid to Give Your Protagonist Negative Traits and Flaws

I recently came across this clip of Daisy Ridley being interviewed about her character Rey in the latest Star Wars trilogy, and her perspective piqued my interest.  Have a look:

As a writer, I respectfully disagree with Ridley’s view on characters not needing flaws or faults and her perspective that Rey doesn’t have any.  Why are character flaws and negative traits important even in a protagonist?  Let’s talk about it.

Flaws and imperfections give a character depth and dimension.  They humanize the character and create empathy or sympathy between the reader/viewer and the character.  Flaws give the character something to overcome or cope with as they work through the narrative.  

Just like in real life, there are external events we have to deal with, and at the same time, we have to work through any internal issues we may be facing.  Sometimes the two can conflict, which can be frustrating in real life but makes excellent story material.

A perfect character is a BORING character.  You want your characters to feel relatable, and negative traits are a great way to do that.  This doesn’t mean they have to be evil or do illegal things.  There is a wide range of emotions, traits, and flaws you can give a character that will help your reader see them as a person and not just a vessel through which a story is being told.

Think of some of your own personal traits that might be seen as unfavorable or even your own flaws.  Do they make you a bad person?  Probably not.  How do you cope with them?  How do you work through them daily?  By incorporating internal struggles and flaws, you can add dimension to your characters. 

Think of your favorite film, TV series, or book characters.  Are they perfect?  Probably not.  Do they have flaws?  More than likely, a lot of them.  But even with these faults, flaws, and struggles, we identify with them, root for them, empathize with them and watch the character evolve as the story unfolds.

You know, that whole character arc thing.  Pretty important.

Daisy Ridley’s proclamation that Rey has no flaws starts with the writing.  If J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson created a flawless character for Ridley to play, that’s an error in judgment on their part, not Ridley’s.  She’s merely performing what’s on the page and interpreting it based on what the director – and Disney – wants.  

Rey should have flaws, doubts, imperfections, and negative traits.  It doesn’t make her a bad person; it doesn’t make her less likable.  It HUMANIZES her, giving the audience someone to follow and root for.  

These issues enable the character to have an arc, to strive toward being better as they traverse the obstacles thrown at them by the story.  If you listen to the clip, Ridley lists several things that she feels people can overcome – “anger and jealousy” – and she’s right.  They can.  That’s called personal growth in real life.  Or a character arc in a story.  

Just like the characters in the original Star Wars trilogy.

If you look at the original trilogy, Luke, Leia, Han, and even Darth Vader all have negative traits and flaws, but they overcome them throughout the trilogy.  We watch, and we have a vested interest in who they are and what will happen to them.  Is it because they’re perfect, flawless humans?  Quite the opposite.

So, as you create characters for your stories, remember that it’s okay to have them possess negative traits and have flaws.  This gives them something to work on, something for the audience to identify with, and presents the reader/viewer with a dimensional character worth their time.

Apologies for the late post. I will be back to the earlier post time next Sunday!

When it Comes to Your Writing, Who’s Really in Control?

Where do you want your characters to go…or where should they take you?

So, you’ve finally done it. You’ve completed your outline for your novel or short story and you’re ready to sit down and write.  Your fingers are poised over the keys of your computer – or typewriter, if you’re old school – you take a deep breath, and dive into the story.

As you start to dig into story, you realize that your main character is taking you down a storyline that you didn’t outline or anticipate.  In fact, it’s almost as if your protagonist is in control of what they’re saying and doing.  It’s as if you are only there to transcribe the events as they unfold.  A mere voyeur to a story you hadn’t even planned.

This is a good thing!

I’ve had these moments happen many times while writing.  I think I’m going to take the story one place due to planning ahead, and then the main character takes the wheel and we go off on a weed-infested dirt road that I never even knew was there.  It’s at these moments while writing – especially during the drafting process – that it’s best to just sit back and see where things go.

Sometimes you’ll hit a dead end.  Sometimes you’ll learn something new about the character and the choices they make that can have an impact on the story and in turn the character’s interactions with others in the story.  The key during these moments is not to fight the creativity taking hold of your brain and your fingers as the rapidly pound the keys to get every sentence down as fast as possible.

And it’s not only a great method of discovery for your main character.  Supporting characters can benefit and develop greatly during this process of creative surrender.  Maybe you have a character who you feel isn’t strong or dimensional enough; but while writing a sequence that includes them they begin to say things and do things that make them far more interesting and instrumental to the overall story.  That’s always an exciting time!

While I do support writing outlines, I also believe that as creative people we must allow ourselves to give into the temptation of going where our roadmap doesn’t.  Even if you do return to the road you previously paved, you may have learned a thing or two that can benefit your characters – and your story – in the long run.

Have you ever let your characters take the wheel and take your story down a trail you never expected? Leave a comment and let me know!

Writing Tip #9: Don’t Be Afraid to Rough-Up Your Protagonist

You’ve created the perfect protagonist for your story.  They’re smart, funny, liked by other characters, and best of all, you love them, too!  Now it’s time for them to enter the world of your story and there’s a fear deep inside you that wants to protect them at all costs.  After all, this precious creation should travel through the ebbs and flows of the story unscathed and come out on the other end as perfect as they were when they started their journey.

This is one of the worst things you can do.  Not just as a writer, but to your audience.

Your audience – whether reading or watching your story – wants to go on a journey with your main character.  They want to experience, grow, change, and be moved by what happens to your main character. If your character doesn’t go through some metamorphosis over the course of the narrative, an audience will grow bored with what they are reading or watching.

And you definitely don’t want that!

Don’t be afraid to rough up your main character.  Put them through traumatic events.  Shake them up emotionally, psychologically, physically.  It’s through how they deal with these types of events that their character arc grows over the course of the story (which is just as important as your plot points and story arc).  You want your main character to wind up in a different place on the final page of your script or novel than they were at the beginning.

Audiences expect that.

Exercise:

Watch your favorite movie and write down what the main character is put through over the course of the story.  Where were they at the start of the film?  Where are they at the end?  Write down 5 to 7 events over the course of the film that caused them to change as a character?  Are they a stronger character because of these events?

Now that you’ve taken the time to see how it’s done, you can apply these same principles to your main character.  Don’t be afraid to take them to the limits to see how they handle stressful, dire, or deadly situations.  It’s through these events that your character becomes a more realized and dimensional being for audiences to root for.