Among the three primary elements of a story, writing the characters is generally the least forgiving element. Characters need to prompt a response in the reader, particularly the response of wanting to read more. Strong characters are critical to great writing. However, “strong” and “weak” can have very different meanings depending on context. A character who is weak in their person in the sense of their personal attributes, attitudes, and motivations, can be strong for purposes of telling a story. For example, an individual who is lazy and avoids work at all costs doesn’t sound like someone most readers want to follow.
However, a character whose primary desire is to avoid work can be very entertaining if they are highly creative in their shenanigans. The question for the reader is less about whether they agree or somehow relate to the character and more about whether they are intrigued enough to find out if they achieve what they desire.
And that is the fundamental key to every good character; they must want something, and that something must be something the reader wants to know about. Whether it’s wealth, love, power, or simply that missing piece to an otherwise perfect life, their pursuit of that something is where the story resides. How this plays out changes greatly from one genre to another. For example, in “literary fiction,” characters are often seeking to know what they want; in romance, they characters are looking for their “Happily Ever After.”
In writing Revenant, establishing and defining this aspect of the story was both fun and challenging. More important, it really drove the story from the perspective of the creative process. The story works on more levels than I originally anticipated because you see three different communities experiencing very different levels of success in surviving and get a glimpse at how those different levels of success affect the needs and desires of individuals in those communities. In TCMP, Princess’s view of the world and what she wanted changes as she learns more about who she is and what life is like outside the Bubble. The events in Revenant force her to reevaluate her uncertain vision of what she is working toward but also refines and focuses her future planning.
The combination of writing the story and starting a new career in sales really made me examine my own life and what I want. If I’m going to be the hero of my own story, then I need to want something and work toward achieving it. So, as part of that, I decided to reexamine what it means to set goals and to learn different processes for getting from here to there. I decided to distill what I learned into a tool I could share with others. You can find it here. I have ordered several copies for myself and my friends and plan to use it in the coming year.
My goal for next year is to write at least three novels, which is a serious stretch for me. Thankfully, I already have a good start on the first two, and one will be the next book in the Princess saga. I honestly never thought about how finishing my second novel would impact me other than getting another title published. But pursuing that creative process has really improved my confidence as a writer, a person, and a salesman. Here’s to a great 2022!