Trying to come up with... anything...

by Servae
(Seattle)

Question: I have a character, and I'm starting to know her like the back of my hand, but I can't seem to do anything with her. I know a tremendous amount about her, her past, how she thinks, etc. but she's content with her life as it is, and doesn't want anything more or less. I've tried to go backwards from here, being where she is as the end-point of the story, but everything I've done has simply not worked well at all. I guess I'm asking is: how do I give my character a goal for which she can strive for? She seems to have no ambition for anything...


Answer: Of course, you may at some point have to admit you need a different character. However, here's a possibility you could explore...

Some main characters charge into the adventure, others have to be dragged along unwillingly.

For instance, there are action-driven stories and there are decision-driven stories. There are do-ers (who try to solve every problem by changing their environment with action), and there are be-ers (who try to solve every problem by changing themselves and fitting in).

A do-er character will be unwilling to pursue the goal in a decision-driven story. She is an action person, uncomfortable with deliberation, inner turmoil, and trying to fit in. On the other hand, a be-er will be uncomfortable pursuing the goal in an action-driven story.

A character can work in a story with a driver that goes against their nature, but they need a lot of pressure to get them involved.

For example, the film Romancing the Stone has a romance writer, a be-er, forced reluctantly into an action-adventure because her sister has been kidnapped. Nothing less would have got her to leave her New York apartment to go traipsing about the jungles of South America.

You may need to give your character a similarly huge incentive to get her to participate in the pursuing the goal.

Perhaps you can devise some threat or problem that is strong enough to drag her out of her content existence and which she is the only one who can solve.

Of course, it still matters that, despite her contentment, there should be something missing in her life. She may have convinced herself she's happy. But when she gets this thing as a result of her adventure, she realizes how much better her life is. The story should take her to the next level of personal growth which she doesn't know she needs until it happens.

That's assuming you want a happy ending.

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Oct 04, 2012
Thank you!
by: Servae

Your answer was helpful. I know have a few ideas for where to go with this. Nothing concrete, but that's the adventure of writing, right?

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