Character Development & Plot - article

"If Indiana Jones had just found the lost would have missed out on all the critical thinking he used to track down the hidden treasure..."

The art of telling a compelling story that not only sucks in your audience, but at the same time creates a three dimensional world in which your characters can truly come to life is the sign of a great writer.

If you were to simply attempt to take your audience from point A to point Z without exploring the other 24 letters of the alphabet, you're not only going to miss out on a huge opportunity to educate, inform, and inspire them with your heroes and villains, but you're probably going to fail keeping them as well. Without an element of adversity or conflict, you simply can't tell a full story effectively.

For example, if Indiana Jones had just found the lost ark without any adversity, you would have missed out on all the critical thinking he used to track down the hidden treasure, not to mention all those elements that made his story a classic like giant boulders, snake pits, and iconic fight scenes. Obstacles and conflicts do a lot to drive your story forward, and at times become the most memorable pieces of it.

Below are some of the primary reasons it is crucial your main character spend most of the novel working toward something and failing to achieve it.

Creating tension and drama

If your main character gets their way throughout your story line, your audience will struggle to connect. In real life we're faced with adversity all the time and sometimes in our real lives we wish we could overcome those moments heroically.

That's why when we're looking to be swept by a story we want characters that we can relate to and live through vicariously. The more tension and drama present in a story, the more opportunities there are that one or more of those instances will strike a chord with an audience member.

Keeping the audience engaged

It's that hunt for knowledge, that desire to understand what happens next that keeps your reader turning pages. By creating layers of adversity before your hero you're setting your audience up to be in a position to remain intrigued.

You implant a thought in their minds that has them thinking about how their new friend, your lead, is going to overcome each new challenge.

Teaching your readers about the character

Along with the drama and engagement that adversity brings to your characters lives, it also presents an opportunity for audience members to learn more about who your lead is as a person.

After all, how a main character handles the challenges put before them can really paint a deeper, more relatable picture of who they are and the life they've lived.

In the end...

It's your job to help your audience to understand your characters. From the way they react to bad news to what they do when their back is against the wall, or how they rise to the occasion tell a story in itself, your characters' challenges show their true colors, keep things interesting and allow your readers a realistic connection point.

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  • I'm very new at writing fiction, so I found this article very helpful. I agree with the concept of conflict and with the idea that the main character shouldn't always get what he or she wants. My main character in MOTH TO A FLAME: FORBIDDEN LOVE is striving to find love in a world of quick hookups and superficial relationships. When she finally believes she found her soul mate, he turned out to be very different from the man she thought he was. So, she had to go back to square one and seek out a different type of partner. As far as making the audience understand the characters in my novel is concerned, I've received some feedback from my readership in which I was told that my main female character was too naive and my main male character was too nefarious. My response to this is that it is because my main female character is so naive she falls prey to the nefarious male character. I just wanted to add that characterization is SO important in making a novel believable and also enjoyable.
  • This article gets me thinking about the abysmal outline I started writing a while ago. I didn't explore the world beyond points A and Z. Thanks for helping me to see the light.
  • When I read my very first novel and subsequent novels, I noticed that the protagonists don't catch a moment's breath. It took me a long time to realise that the stories are written to a formula. A very concise and precise method you have outlined here. Thank you, Michael Esser. Ranchitham, Malaysia.
  • I agree. I think it is going to take real focus and thought to get into the heads of my characters consistently while remembering to connect the plot as I go from one incident to the next. I am starting to see the overall essence of a book as an issue of interconnectedness.
  • An awesome article. Thanks! it's also necessary to make character actions/decisions believable. You have to show just why a character would do something through small similar actions (showing that the character is capable of such actions) or through backstory showing what caused the character to have such a personality to do the things he/she does. In my fiction short story INTERNET MATCHMAKING ( ) the main character does something risky that may seem unbelievable. but the information about his past show why he would do that, making the story believable.