Thursday, June 6, 2013

Character Growth Through Trials

I'll explain why some other time, but due to my latest focus of writing projects, I find myself looking at people and thinking, "I wonder what their story is. What hardships did they have to endure in order to get where they are." Every interesting person in life has a history of trial they had to overcome in order to be great.

I love stories of overcoming hardships like this one. It's so beautiful, it brought a tear to my eye:


So, my advice to you is that while you are writing your characters who are AWESOME and INTERESTING, it is rarely that they were born that way. Usually, they have to overcome hardships in order to be the character that your readers want to cheer for and care about. Ask yourself what hardships they had to overcome.

An example is this video. I don't know who this mother is, but I have no doubt that the hardships she has had to ENDURE and OVERCOME (two things that build great characters) since having her son have made her a better person. But so much of that is choices. She could have chosen the easy way "out" in so man cases. Not just the abortion, but she could have put Christian up for adoption, or drop the waddled baby at the steps of the corner church, or just ignored him and make him society's problem. I think taking the baby out of the picture would have broken her. Destroyed her. Made her a lessor person. She choose the hard road and her choices has lead to a blessed  family and a child that knows love. For those we care about this in this story, it is a win!! Who here is still hung up on the woman who came over and said, "You should have aborted that thing when you had the chance."? Who remembers her. Who cares about such a heartless, uncaring person? I'm sure she has had hardships in her life as well, but her hardships has led her to saying this to somebody who held a beautiful, giggling child in her arms.

Find a character in all of your stories who has to choose this type of life, a life path that leads them to excellence. Even better, get a few of these characters.  And, you've got a story on your hands that people will cheer for and not want to put down.

Just for fun, have two or three such characters with the same goals but different means in order to achieve them. Get them to fight about it. In their own minds, the choices they make are the most correct ones. Look at The Council of Elrond in The Lord of the Rings. They are all great and powerful people who have had to overcome hardships, and they all had one goal, and that was to keep the ring of power out of the hands of the enemy. Some wanted to use it, some wanted to hide it or protect it, while others wanted to destroy it. Gimli wanted to--and tried to--take an axe to it. Ultimately, the bravest and more interesting choice, was to give the ring to the most humblest creature of all so he could simply walk into Mordor and destroy it. But, didn't you love that conflict? Didn't it put you on the edge of your seat?

Same with The Avengers. All of the Avengers were pow-wowwing in the science room talking about what should be done with the tesseract and the Avengers and I think there was a second of disagreement between Coke and Pepsi. All great heroes with phenomenal backstories of trial, endurance, choices, and not taking the easy road. All of them had the same goal. They all had different approaches on what to do next.

You don't have to tell your readers what those hardships are, but you really should SHOW it in one way or another. Let those experiences shine in their eyes. Let the reader know what they went through, even if you never, ever have the character come out and say, "My Dad chopped off my hand and I had to convert him to my religion without getting angry." (Spoiler alert: The was Star Wars episodes 5 & 6)