Dear Story “god”: Today You Will Drown Your Character…a Lesson

Let It Rain!

And only throw your characters a rope

As your story “god” you cannot make it easy for your characters when they are facing the consequences of their choices. You can’t reach down and scoop them up as the flood waters come. No, quite the contrary:

  • Cover—You must raise the flood waters so high that the mountaintops are covered and your characters have nowhere to seek shelter
  • Flood—Your characters must be forced to ride the swell of waves, praying they’ll make it out alive, but not believing it will really happen
  • Rise—You must continue to let it rain; you cannot lower the stakes for any reason, even when they are near-drowning

This is where the story is

During the storm is where your character’s true colors show through, just like in real life. We don’t know what we’re made of until we’re stretched, and sometimes we are a bit frightened by what we discover. Other times, we may rise to the occasion and surprise even ourselves. Our characters, too, must be put to the test if we are ever going to give them sympathetic moments for the reader to connect with; if we are ever going to make our characters feel like real people, we must make them bleed and then let them fend for themselves.

The redemptive moment

When you allow your characters to face pain and consequence, they will be forced to change for the better or to realize they will never change and find contentment in that life. A changed spirit. A repentant heart. Only through this turmoil can our characters grow into better people than they were on page one. Some questions to ask are:

  • Have you rescued your character instead of letting him face the consequence of his choice?
  • Have you made it too convenient or too easy for her to succeed?
  • Where can you make it rain in your story?
  • What crutch could you take away that would raise the flood waters?

Remember Dorothy, who returned from Oz only to discover that if she ever had to look further than her own backyard, she never lost it to begin with. After all, there’s no place like home.

Assignment:

Write a short story which starts off with your main character making a decision that will have an unpleasant or highly detrimental consequence. Let them begin to face this consequence without intervening as the author. What can you throw into the mix to make their journey even harder? In the end, find that redemptive moment where they are able to make up for their flaws through a heartfelt change.

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Dear Story “god”: Today You Will Drown Your Character…a Lesson

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