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.


Keep it Interesting

There is nothing worse than a boring story. Especially when you just bought the hardcover version. Imagine paying $20 for a book, expecting it to be a great read, based on the teasers on the inside flap.

Then you begin reading, holding the book gently and leaning forward in anticipation, only to find the first paragraph so dull that you want to toss the book across the room. But you don’t because you paid good money for it.

You finish the first page, then the second. You trudge forward, page after boring page, waiting for something interesting to occur. After about 50 pages, you give up and put the book in your recycling pile.

As a writer, we have an obligation to keep readers engaged. The way to make that happen is by creating story in which the tension ebbs and flows with each turn of the page.

It would be nearly impossible to maintain that tension throughout the entire book, and as a reader, it would be overwhelming to be constantly on alert. So what does a writer do?

Your characters must be challenged, but not inundated. New twists occur, but at a comfortable pace, not like on a sled ride down a constantly changing hill.

As soon as your character accepts the new twist, as soon as the character moves on, throw something new at her. Make things hard. Make your character have to fight through the obstacle to attain her goal.

No trite endings. No easy resolution. No happy birds singing, no stars bursting in the night sky and no simple coincidences that solve all problems.

Your task is to write a scene in which life is not easy for your protagonist. He wants something that will take effort to achieve. He begins his quest, only to be blocked by a major occurrence. He stumbles around until he finds a way past, then within a short period of time, comes across another obstacle. At the end of your scene, the main character can either be feeling safe, or he can be adrift, flopping around feeling insecure. It’s up to you.

Have fun with this one.