Monday, September 24, 2012
Why Every Character Needs Setbacks
No matter how brilliant and great your characters are, if they don’t have a setback, they aren’t real. Sure, your main character might be able to ride horseback and be dashing and have a wonderful secret skill, and all of that is wonderful. We want to see that your characters have skills, just like your readers do. However, if nothing is keeping him from being the best handsome horseback rider who can juggle flaming knives and save fetching damsels in distress, people aren’t going to care about reading. It needs to be relevant, and realistic. Real life has problems, and everybody has a setback of some sort. Maybe he limps, and so it was hard for him to learn to ride. Maybe he’s afraid of leaving the castle. Maybe he’s always been afraid of battle since his father died in a village accident. Hearing that characters have problems makes us want to keep reading, to hear about how the horseback rider learns to overcome his fear of leaving/odd gait/fear of battle. Having difficulties makes the victories far more interesting, as well as vastly improved.
Here are some examples from children’s and young-adult books:
-In Esperanza Rising, Esperanza has her father die, and so she has to rise past that and learn to live without the wealth and luxury she had previously been afforded.
-In Anne of Green Gables, Anne is an orphan, and she has a fear of not being wanted and loved. However, she overcomes that once she meets Marilla and Matthew.
-In Harry Potter, he is an orphan who’s living with his relatives who aren’t exactly fond of him, and he’s not from as worldly of a wizarding background, as some of his peers are.
-In The Island of the Blue Dolphins, Karana is stranded on their island after everyone in the village leaves, and she struggles to survive.
-In The Call of the Wild, Buck has to change his ways to fit into the pack, as he is sold to a sled team in the Klondike.
Basically, our characters have to struggle. They’re interesting that way. Everyone has friends who seem to be good at everything, which is annoying and unrealistic. They may be good friends, but everybody has struggles. If there is no conflict, then there is no reason why we should keep reading; it soon becomes boring. Also, sidekicks, villains, and others alike all need to struggle, no exceptions. To have the most realistic and likeable characters, give them struggles, so that the path to victory is even greater.
I really meant to post this yesterday. Really. Writing every day is hard, but it has made me remember and rekindle my passion again.
On that note, happy Tuesday!