Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Fiction is about the most interesting events in your protagonist’s life

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Feb• 20•16

 Fiction is about the most difficult and interesting events in a protagonist’s life. Fiction is also designed to push a protagonist into new physical and emotional territory. People read  fiction to escape dull meetings, mindless chitchat,  and infuriating bureaucracies. Give them a story. A fictional story needs to make the reader feel more alive even it takes place down the block.

Bilbo BagginsThink Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: he was leading a fairly humdrum life when he’s whisked out to journey through the Shire. On his quest he encounters dangers and faces a dragon guarding a treasure. And he discovers the bolder, brasher parts of himself that he’s quashed. Much more interesting than napping by the fire.

Think Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. She’s working at graduating from Quantico when Jack

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Blu-ray Screenshot

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Blu-ray Screenshot

Crawford, the head of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit,  pulls her into a serial killer case. She’s young, untested, and in over her head. The reader worries about her youth and inexperience and the ghoulish killer’s hunger and deviousness. And then and there’s crazy, scary Hannibal Lecter and his riddles and head games.

-hunger-games-katniss-story-topThink Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: she’s mostly just trying ts help her family survive in dismal District 12 when she’s yanked into a crisis of enormous importance, life-or-death stakes, and national scrutiny. She’ll make deadly enemies, find allies, and also find love under the most vicious, treacherous and inhuman conditions imaginable.

Atticus Finch and Tom RobbinsThink the Finch family in To Kill a Mockingbird: Atticus is raising his children without their mother when a  kind-hearted black man is wrongly accused of raping a white woman. Life or death stakes, small town racism and ugliness revealed, his children put in real danger.

The circumstances of your story should test your protagonist’s courage, strength and wisdom. It should reveal his or her morality. It should also test his or her limits of endurance. If your story is not the most dramatic, intense, and difficult circumstances in your protagonist’s life, why then are you writing it? If your characters don’t learn something important about themselves often the story isn’t worth telling. Fiction isn’t life; it’s artifice.

Keep writing, keep dreaming, have heart

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.