The Unlikely Protagonist

We like happy people. We love a satisfying ending to an intriguing story. We like to follow the lives of ordinary folks who face struggles, but in the end, come out feeling good about themselves.

What happens when the protagonist is none of those? What if she is a miserable drunk? Drug addict? Sex slave?

What if he is an abuser, a bully, a swaggert?

These are not your typical protagonists, but think of the stories they can tell.

Imagine the drug addict confronted by the abuser. Think of the potential conflicts. Think of the drama.

Change things around. What if the bully is also a miserable drunk who takes advantage of sex slaves?

Your task is to create the unlikely protagonist. Begin by making a list of all the character flaws that make the person unlikable. Narrow it down to the most alarming of them all.

Think of the story that this character tells.

Your task is to write the story, staying as true to the nature of your character as you can.

Have fun with this one.

 

Addictions

Addictions interfere with our lives. Drugs and alcohol impair our ability to function normally, to concentrate, to process and hold on to information.

Going to work under the influence, if caught, could lead to termination. Driving can cause death to innocents.

Imagine the impact on relationships, unless the partner also abuses.

These are the things that we must consider when crafting characters.

Is your character an addict or a one-time user? Does your character hang out with users or avoid users? Does your character occasionally use drugs or alcohol or take part on a regular basis?

Your task is to create a character and then decide how much of an addict, and addicted to what, that individual is. Write a scene in which the reader sees the character either avoiding substances or taking part.

If you are not familiar with how someone under the influence of a particular drug might act, do some research. You want your character’s actions to be as realistic as possible.

Have fun with this one.

Traveling Incognito

We are many different people.

At any given time we might be walking around as an employee at a job that we hate/love.

The next moment we might get a troubling phone call about our child, and then we put on our parenting hat.

Or maybe it could be a message from a spouse, telling us that he/she just got promoted/was in a car accident/got good news from the doctor.

We could be an exercise nut on weekends or avoid exercise at all costs.

We might be a meat lover or a vegetarian or maybe a little of both.

We might love to play board/card games or hate any type of game.

We could be a reader of books/newspapers/magazines or only watch television.

We might be addicted to our devices, spending hours reading postings, or we might not own a single portable device, including a cell phone.

Because we change from day to day, hour to hour, we must consider that our characters also change. If she doesn’t, then she won’t be interesting to follow. A flat character does not invite tension, and every good story needs tension to pull the reader along.

Your task is to either create a new character or pull up one that you think might benefit from a little expansion.

Make a list of all the different disguises this character wears. Narrow the list down to two or three that you could comfortably fit into a scene.

Write that scene, keeping in mind that with each step a character makes, the hat changes.

Have fun with this one.

Give Her Wheels

Our characters move from one place to another. How do they accomplish this?

Sometimes they walk, but not always. Walking only gets you so far, even if she lives in a big city.

At some point she will need to travel further distances. How will she get there?

Usually on wheels. City bus, subway, bicycle, taxi all have some type of wheel.

Our characters need to travel, need to venture outside of the home unless he is agoraphobic, and so at some point must get in a vehicle.

Your task is to think about a character that you are using in a story. Make a list of the means of transportation that he could use. List as many as are plausible.

Next to each mode, write a reason for using that method of transportation. For example, going to the doctor, getting to work, visiting friends.

Narrow down your list to the one that makes the best story. Think in terms of dramatic scene. What could happen while on the bus? Riding in the car? Pedaling a bicycle down a country road?

Now write that scene, keeping in mind that your reader needs to be there with your character, feeling what she feels, seeing what she sees and experiencing everything through that character’s senses.

After you’ve written the scene, reread and edit. What do you think? Does your writing help you to travel next to your character? If not, then go back.

Have fun with this one.

One Day to Live Again

If given an opportunity, which day in your life would you choose to relive?

Is there a time that you said or did something that you regret? If so, what would you do differently? How would this change the outcome?

We all do things that later cause us grief. It might have been a snide comment in response to being treated poorly by a friend or family member. It might have been an act as simple as not dividing the cake into equal portions and giving someone you were angry with the smallest piece. Granted, this is not a huge event, but it speaks to an underlying tension.

Your task is to write from the heart. Recall a situation that, if given a chance, you would do differently. Begin with the scene. Put us in the moment, whether it is a situation at work or an encounter in a coffee shop.

Choose your character. It can be first person or third. If third, keep the character’s actions as close to what really happened as possible.

Put things in motion. Try to recall the things that were said, the emotions, and the reactions.

Think about how you felt after it was over. For how long were you in remorse? Write about that feeling, wishing that it had never happened.

This will not be a fun activity, but one from which you can learn. Your characters say and do things that they should regret.

Good luck with this one!

Unlocked Doors

Some of us live in areas where no one locks their doors at any time, day or night, whether they are at home or away. Imagine what that must feel like! To know, to believe, that your privacy is protected without benefit of fancy security lights, cameras and companies.

Most of us, however, would not feel comfortable knowing that the doors were unlocked. We would worry about someone coming in uninvited and riffling through our drawers and cabinets.

We would panic at the thought of waking up with someone in our bedroom, looking at us as we sleep. We would have nightmares or possibly be unable to sleep at all.

Bring to mind a character that you would like to write about. What kind of person is this character? Does she tremble at the thought of invasion or is she so confidant in the safety of her neighborhood that she never worries about locking doors?

Your task is to incorporate this in a scene. Be realistic. Safety often depends upon where the person lives. For example, someone living in a high-rise in the downtown of a large city might never feel safe leaving the door unlocked, while someone out in the country might not care if the doors are locked or not. Or maybe it’s the reverse!

Have fun with this one.

A Responsible Person

Many people take care of others. I know of grandparents who watch their grandchildren five days a week while the parents work. I also know of people who have their elderly parents living with them.  In both cases, there is a degree of responsibility that transcends what we consider our responsibility as parents.

For whom is your character responsible? This is an important consideration. Even if your character lives alone, there must be someone in his life that demands attention. Is it a close friend who needs rescue? Is it a parent who cannot manage his finances without supervision? Is it a grown child who is still under the parent’s insurance?

Your task is to create a dependent for a character, then establish the degree of responsibility that the protagonist has for this dependent. Make it substantial in order to bring tension to the story.

Write a scene in which something occurs that tests the relationship. Perhaps someone falls ill, either the caretaker or the dependent. Perhaps someone falls and can no longer live alone. Perhaps someone loses financial independence and cannot afford to stay in her apartment any longer. Perhaps a natural disaster occurs that destroys the person’s home…and both caretaker and dependent have to make other arrangements.

There are many things that can occur that create tension. Your job is to choose one and write about it.

Have fun with this one.