Have you ever seen something tragic on the news or Internet that made you have to find out why the incident happened and what kind of person could be behind it? If we at the recent event at Douglas High School, it’s not surprising to learn that people flooded the internet to learn more about the shooter. The reason people wanted to know more about him is because they wanted to personally understand the motives behind his actions. I’ll go further to say that a lot of curiosity was sparked because certain levels of actions make us think that the person who committed that action is no longer like us.
There is light and dark in the world and there is light and dark in fiction. In the franchise “Star Wars” this concept is prevalent from the beginning. In example, Luke Skywalker finds himself being lured to the dark side. Speaking of dark, it’s common for us to compare bad moments to our darkest hour.
As I’m writing my novel, I want to visualize moments of light (love, happiness and laughter), as well as when my characters feel as if they are living their darkest hour. I also want my antagonist to draw curiosity and interest to the reader. If my antagonist is so terrible that readers are curious as to what motivates their dark activities, it will be hard not to have a bestseller on my hands.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking, let’s use the books of Thomas Harris. In the books “Red Dragon” and “Silence of the Lamb,” think about it. The antagonist, Hannibal Lecter, draws as much attention from the reader as the detectives Will Graham and Clarice Starling. You can also see this happening in Gillian Flynn’s book “Gone Girl.” It is the actions of Amy Dunne that keeps the story riveting. But let me throw this out there. I don’t have to write my antagonist as someone the reader hates. I can write the antagonist as someone the reader loves. However I choose to write my antagonist, I have to be careful, because readers do not want someone they truly, truly love to die. And if you’ve noticed in the books I’ve mentioned, the antagonists don’t die.
If I’m writing my novel with an antagonist that has become part star of the book, I must then make certain that my main character also shines in the spotlight. How I can achieve that is by one simple trick that I like using. I pour so much bad things happening to them, they become desperate.
Have you ever been desperate for money or love? Many of us have, but in the real world most people don’t get so desperate that they commit murder for money or love. This draws me back to my opening comments. I want their story to be tragic enough that it’s similar to seeing something tragic on the news or Internet and my reader must know how and why it happened. Usually in fiction, despite the genre, what the main reader is desperate for is living. This can mean living and not dying OR living their life the way they want to as seen in the book “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Main characters are always desperate for something. They can be desperate for many, many things. It can be for a husband, or a wife, or for their country, or for success, or to live another day. The list is endless and as long as the reader can identify with the character’s desperation, while being entertained at the same time, they mostly likely will truly enjoy the story.
Now think about this. What happens when someone becomes desperate? What happens when a person feels like their back is against the wall? They’re going to come out fighting, right? How they come out fighting is what’s going to make my novel spectacular.
This reminds me of when I read a book by an indie author that wanted me to read it and give my opinion and also a review, if I felt inclined to give one. Let me tell you, I hated that book! My goodness!!!! The novel opened with the character being a weak individual, easily victimized by everyone in his life. This book did not open with a dilemma. The author gave no direction in regards to what the book was about. In my opinion, this is the worst thing an author can do. Readers want to get a feel of what the book is about in the first chapter. As I continued reading the story, this weak individual continued being weak on every single page, all the way to the end of the book. At the end of the book, he was still this weak individual and still being victimized. By the time I reached the last page of the book, I wanted to throw the story, especially since I forced myself to keep reading it. I hated the main character. I hated the antagonist. I hated that not a single character in the book showed any growth. By the end of the book, if I could breathe fire, I would have set the book on fire.
I do not want to write that kind of story. You do not want to write that kind of story. I want to write my main characters as people readers find it in their hearts to either love or feel sympathetic for. The reason I added sympathetic is this. What if my main character was an asshole that someone has targeted to spew injustices against him? Have you ever seen the movie “Phone Booth?” The character Colin Farrel played was an arrogant asshole, but the viewers could identify with his dilemma because of the way the character was being victimized by the antagonist. But if I write my main character as an asshole, what I and other authors will do is allow this character to find redemption. The kind of heat the antagonist is throwing on him should make him desperate to change the kind of man he is.
But here’s something else that I find myself doing with the book I’m writing. Not only does my main characters become desperate, my antagonist is just as desperate to get what they want. Now I have two opponents fighting hard to get what they want. Sounds like a championship bout, doesn’t it? If I can present main characters and an antagonist with both having a chance to win the championship, readers will continue reading to find out who the winner will be.
This is what I found myself at today. I realized how desperate my characters and antagonist were and couldn’t wait to write this post.
Until next time, keep writing! All in love with your writing process and stay tuned for the next post.