The Final (Almost) Starting Point

[the rest of this discussion is in the earlier posts, starting here]

Now that the kid is going to be the MC, let me explain why he’s going to be the Main Character. Yes, I call them main characters, rather than any other label. Just habit, and stops any attempt at making them a Mary Sue (or the M equivalent).

Anyway, back to the subject of the discussion.

What does it take for the character to become the main character?

There are four main things for me (and probably millions of others, readers and writers alike):

An interesting setting. The world thing. I need to know it well enough to enable the reader to experience that world and it has to be interesting enough that they can feel it, taste it, live in it (even all the bities).

Next is an Active character. They have to want something badly and they need to be willing to do stuff to get what they want (hold your horses, haven’t got to the other half of this yet).

After that is the Goal. It has to be big enough to sustain the story, it has to be a worthy fight to get something that big.

And the last (and probably most important consideration) is Stakes. What is at stake for this person if they don’t get what they NEED from this journey?

See the difference there? They start off with a want, but underlying that want is a bigger need, and they can’t achieve what they want until they have that need stick them in the nose with a good ol’ one-two knockout to show them the reality of dreams and life.

The world is interesting to me, and I know it well enough to situate these characters and this story in it, with a bit of a push and shove from the difficult terrain, beasties, and baddies to make it more than just a backdrop. It will be real to me as I write it and that should be easier for the reader (as long as I do an edit run just for setting).

The kid has the dream of not just getting to the Olympics, but participating in the sport his father would have won gold in — if he’d lived. That’s the Want (external).

He’s also doing the hard yards to get the extra money. Some of that isn’t all that honest, and he thinks to use emotional manipulation on Dee to get money out of her for the big-ticket items. He’s an active protagonist, who may have a skewed view at the beginning of the story.

The Goal is to get to the Olympics and prove to himself he’s as good as his dad (internal goal).

The Stakes become: his life in the first instance (getting away from the crooks – the foil of his desperate tactics in pursuit of his goals and the choice of action to get there), then his skills (which includes the equipment and paying for a trainer, etc.), then his internal self-concept (will he finally understand that it’s not just about his dad, that he can’t blame the world for an accident, and that the choice to pursue a goal isn’t about proving yourself to others, but to temper and forge the person hidden under the mask (all the things he thinks the world expects of him).

So, all in all, that’s the beginning of the background to the story. After this, I go on to do an outline. Sometimes by the Big Moments in a story (the break, middle, and black moment), sometimes by doing a scene summary, sometimes a chain of events (with a few internal knockouts).

Knowing why every character is in the story helps make the story grow from a strong foundation. If they have reasons to do what they do, motivations to push beyond the first bump in the track, then they become interesting and we want to know how they deal with what gets thrown at them.

Well, that’s what I think — what about you?

And you may have noticed how much of the previous few posts comes from time away from the workplace and in the headspace. It all takes a bit of thinking time, understanding the why’s and why not’s of each character — including Roo (his motivation is that Vegemite sandwich — and he has a clock in his stomach!).

2 thoughts on “The Final (Almost) Starting Point

    • It would be a short novel as it’s a single storyline and probably too much would be needed for it to fit into a short story.
      I’m not sure I’m ever going to write it, but every planning process makes the next one easier *fingers crossed*.

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