Wallflower or Prizefighter?

Bad things must happen to our beloved characters.

We may enjoy picturing our handsome hero sitting at the corner café drinking a Chardonnay and scrolling through the daily news. But we’ll bore our readers unless something spectacular happens. Character development can only occur through the personal trials we create for them. Saying our protagonist is a hero means nothing; we must show why he is a hero. Perhaps on this same sunny day, the Running of the Bulls takes a fateful turn and the massive creatures  stampede through a street barricade. Moments before a raging bovine tosses  our Mr. Wonderful high in the air, along with his salmon-and-kale salad,  he pushes the oblivious waiter to safety. Self-sacrificing, fast reacting—now there’s an inspiring hero.

What traps and trials have you devised for your characters?

  1. Do their reactions fit the chaotic scenes?
  2. Are they fully engaged?
  3. Or are they always above the fray and untouchable?

If number 3 represents them best, then your audience will hold them at arm’s length. To create a character worthy of reader admiration, you must hit them with some solid punches. It’s best to eliminate all “wallflowers” from your story and create convincing “prizefighters” instead.