Coward Character Turned Brave

Hello, Glen. First of all, I'd like to thank you for the simple but fantastic advice you give on this website, it's amazing! Second, I have a question concerning one of my characters. He's a normal guy, but who throughout the story is confronted with a lot of near-death situations. He isn't exactly a coward, but he has a lot of difficulty facing these situations. My question is how can I make a transition throughout the book that will realistically turn him into a braver person?

Answer: What is a brave person? Is it not someone who does brave things despite feeling afraid? If someone feels no fear in doing dangerous things are they really brave or are they foolhardy? Or perhaps psychopathic?

It is true that characters can be divided into two types: be-ers and do-ers. When faced with a problem, a do-er will want to do some external action to solve it -- such as mending a fuse, chewing someone out, or killing the monster. A be-er, on the other hand, will try to solve a problem by changing themselves -- for instance, being more diplomatic or trying to fit in. Sometimes it's fun to write a story about a "fish out of water," such as a be-er put into an action plot or a do-er in a story about deliberation.

What I'm saying is that sometimes it can be interesting to put a not-so-brave person in a situation where he is forced to do courageous things because there's no choice. An example might be Bilbo in The Hobbit.

Of course, you have to decide how much pressure to put on him. With some people, a little pressure can get the adrenaline going and put them in a state where they leap into action. Too much pressure will put them into a panic. They may get very emotional, but be unable to act otherwise. Extreme pressure can push someone into a kind of paralysis.

On the other hand, perhaps you want the arc of your character's inner conflict to be about this issue? Perhaps you want him to go from being someone who just reacts to problems to being proactive enough to nip them in the bud. In that case, you might create an impact character who represents who you want your character to become -- perhaps a brave warrior. Through their relationship and various events, your main character can be pressured by the impact character's example to become braver. The main character's personal crisis will be the moment he decides to fully embrace the new way of being. And that choice will enable him to bring about a happy outcome to the story.

Comments for Coward Character Turned Brave

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Thanks a ton!
by: Anonymous

As always, your advice helped me a lot. You're a fantastic person for helping all of the people in need of help around this website, so thanks a lot!

Unsuccessful impact character
by: Elliot

Hi Glen. The answer provided is somewhat appealing to my story, what a breakthrough. But then I also have a question with regards to the impact character. My impact character is in the same competition with the main character but she gets eliminated. Now my question is, provided that she is braver than the main character. Is it okay to still help the main character even if she appears to be unsuccessful? Pardon my English please, thank you.

To Elliot
by: Glen

Yes. Often the impact character does drop out part way through the story so that the main character has to face their crisis on their own. Think of how Obi wan Kenobi is struck down so that Luke Skywalker must decide on his own to turn off his targeting computer and trust the Force, or how Peeta is incapacitated so that Katniss decides on her own to honour Rue's body (ie she refuses to let the games rob her of her humanity, which is what Peeta advises).

In both cases, the main character remembers the impact character's advice and chooses to follow it, but the decision is still their own.

Of course, before dropping out, the impact character should demonstrate that her approach may be the right one, so the main character will feel pressured to change. Then, in his most desperate moment, he will take a leap of faith. For instance, the main character could see the impact character achieve some minor victories or gather other evidence that she is right, even if she is later eliminated.

by: Elliot

Wow! This is just great. So the impact character will have to appear quite a lot in the novel than I thought, that is to achieve some minor victory as it is (not only advising the main character). Again thank you so much, for the great answer to my question.

To Elliot
by: Glen

Well, it depends. If you can make your impact character exert an influence in a short space of words, that's fine. It's not how much time the character spends on stage but how big an impact they have.

For instance, an impact character could even be someone the main character watches from afar, such as a rock star or a character in a book they've read. What matters is that the main character feels compelled to follow the impact character's example (whether it's right or wrong).

Thanks again
by: Elliot

Alright. I have finally gotten the clear picture now, I feel so motivated that I want to get on the keyboard right now. Let me jump on the bandwagon, like always thanks a ton Glen.

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