When we start writing fiction we have some great ideas. We have some stunningly good ideas that are going to change everything. We’re just on fire.
Great stories with great characters that explore stuff that’s new and exciting, different and eye-opening, stuff that people are going to want to read.
It’s lucky we have the ideas and that we can express them, people are going to be knocked out by what we’re writing.
Then we start to realise that some of our ideas are a bit hard to develop. Sure, they’re still amazingly good, but they don’t seem to be as easy to flesh-out and bring to fruition in a story. It’s almost as if some of our ideas are half-formed, like we haven’t thought them through to any conclusion.
Still great though!
Then we settle down to actually writing and start struggling with structure, development of plot and characters and coherence of the whole thing.
Why is it so hard, when the core ideas are so good?
One reason may be our characters.
When we think of the story, we have these cool characters, with loads to say and do, lots of ways to drive things, these characters are so engaging people are going to want to get to know them!
Our characters should be at the heart of our stories.
And then we realise that the story, however great it is as an idea, needs to be based on what the characters want, what they are trying to achieve.
No story can stand on its own, no matter how good it is as a premise, it needs characters to make it come alive.
So we look at the characters, what they want, what they really, really want (sorry ‘bout that), and realise that the story is actually about what is stopping them getting this.
The story is really about what the characters are trying to achieve and what they have to overcome (or not) to get it.
Then we see that all people change, maybe not at their core, or maybe they do, maybe we are writing about one of the rare people that actually changes their whole world-view due to their experience, due to the challenges they face and what they have to do to overcome them.
So some character development creeps in, how do they change during the course of the story, does this help them or maybe hinder them in getting what they want?
And then we have that little epiphany where we realise that the whole story is actually about character development.
There it is. A change in the way we are thinking about our story. A good change.
We need to get to know our characters, what they want and what they are prepared to do to get it. The story becomes about what actions they take to get what they want.
So how do we get to know our characters… stay tuned for thoughts on that later!