Today I am bringing to you one of the lessons from the Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by David Maass. This book is chock full of amazing ways to refine your manuscript and give your story that extra je ne sais quoi. I’m enjoying this book so much that I thought I would show you all a little bit of the work I have been doing.
(And maybe, while shamelessly plugging his book, Mr. Maass will inadvertently discover this blog, see that I am giving him free advertisement, become interested in my book, and advertise it unto the world. . . .Well a guy can dream, can’t he?)
Today’s lesson is about giving your protagonist conflicting sides to make them more dimensional and, in turn, making them more realistic. Now, I felt pretty confident that my protagonist was already quite multidimensional. Then I read this section from the book:
“How many sides of your current protagonist do you reveal? I know what you are thinking: My hero is multidimensional. Me hero is complex! But let me ask you: Is he complex and multidimensional only in your mind, or actually on the page?”
That forced me to take a step back and re-assess. I knew my hero could be multidimensional, but perhaps I needed to do a little more work. I was ready to accept Mr. Maass’ help.
Step 1: What is my protagonist’s defining quality?
This step was easy. I had already decided this way back when when I had first planned the novel: Idealist. I wanted Landon, my hero, to be an idealist. (Kind of like Luke Skywalker was in “A New Hope”.) Done.
Step 2: What is the opposite of that trait?
Easy again. Realist.
Step 3: Write a paragraph in which your protagonist demonstrates that trait.
Hmmm. Okay, now we got a problem. What part of the story should I use for context? Should it be in the beginning so readers can begin to see the depth of the character early on? or Should I give readers a few chapters to get used to one side of Landon’s character before I show them a new one? I began to get caught up in trying to write the perfect paragraph.
Finally, I decided to stop thinking and just start writing. I told myself to just take what comes out and fix it later.This is the God-awful paragraph that I wrote in 5 minutes:
“Landon saw the world around him. He understood Gavin’s words to be true. Life was not perfect. The world was a dark cruel place, as much as he didn’t want to believe it. So he understood why Gavin had done what he did. Survival of the fittest was the truth of the world.”
Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3 with a different character trait.
I did and again this is the horrible first draft I came up with:
3. “Of course he wasn’t here, he thought. No one ever really cared about him. His parents didn’t want him. His uncle never wanted him. This world didn’t even seem to want him.”
Now these paragraphs definitely needs work, but I wanted to share with you that after having just done one of the exercises, I feel so much freer about who my protagonist is and where I can take him.
Eventually, I decided that the competed first paragraph could be added about halfway through the novel while the second could be placed towards the beginning. I even began plans for more qualities and more moments to show these qualities.
So far, I am only a few exercises into the book, but already I can tell you that it is a great tool for writers. I am beginning to see this as essential an understand why C.H. Griffin boasted so highly of it.
If any of you writers out there feel like you could use any help at all with your story, I highly suggest getting this workbook. It truly can change your manuscript into a breakout novel.
Now, I’m just praying it does for mine! 🙂