About two weeks ago I was able to attend a free writing workshop hosted by my local library district. It was given by author Sharon Skinner, and you can see some of her work here. She was passionate, forthcoming, and super informative. I felt like I not only learned about writing process tips, but also how to get into my characters' heads. Specifically the protagonist.
Since it was a great evening, full of very useful ideas and insights, I decided to pass on the great information and exercises to you! Because of the length, I think I will split this into two different posts, the next one coming 2 weeks from today. (If you guys are interested!)
The Writing Workshop was titled:
The Struggle and the Payoff: Leading Your Protagonist's Journey to a Satisfiying Conclusion.
Start off, by asking yourself some basic, yet major questions about your story. In other words, get down to the heart of your story.
In the presentation, she had us ask ourselves these questions:
Who: Protagonist Wants
What: His/Her desire
Who or What Barriers: Antagonists/barriers that
stand in the way
Write this down for your story. Keep it short and sweet, but know the answers to these questions.
She went on to explain that "the protagonist in our stories must be tested and tempered in order to ensure your hero is forged into a strong enough weapon to win the day at your climax."
She encouraged us to mess with our characters, given them problems, roadblocks, and struggles in order to them to make them stronger and more interesting.
Next, after we discussed the heart of our stories and the who-what-whys behind it, she moved into traits for our characters.
"What traits does the protagonist embody? How are these traits tested and/or strengthened and honed by the conflicts and barriers she/he encounters?"
We wrote down in a table 5 strengths and weaknesses for our protagonist, as well as the antagonist.
This really got me thinking, because even though I knew a few strengths and weaknesses for my protagonist, I didn't give much thought to strengths for my antagonist. What makes them who they are? I wrote down a good quote she mentioned, that said:
"Every villain is the hero of their own story."
Ask yourselves, what are your characters like? What makes them tick?
Some other helpful bullet points she included for important points to hit with our characters in our story were:
- The character's initial motivation must be understood. (plausible or not)
- The character must be able to change, whether willing or not (foreshadowing)
- The character must be affected by experiences that can motivate change. (demonstrate)
- The character must reveal plausible new behavior/motivation (reveal)
I hope this was informative. I have more content that talks about conflict, tension, and plot if you guys are interested!