Greatest Fear: How to Find It and Run with It

Fear is the primal motivator. Knowing what your character fears allows you to put him in the worst situations for him. To challenge him in ways that nothing else could.

It’s tempting to find a whole list of fears, and hit every one. If one is good, more is better. Right?

Alas, no.

That’s why character questionnaires ask for the “greatest fear.” But what does that really mean?

Well, it doesn’t have to be something that makes the character react in absolute panic. When you’re looking for a fear, causing a powerful reaction isn’t as important as depth and dimension. Almost any fear can cause a powerful reaction given the right circumstances.
Keep reading to get the scoop on the Fear cornerstone…

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Picking a Juicy Secret to Jazz Up Your Character

“Every single person has at least one secret that would break your heart.” – Frank Warren

Secrets are catalysts. They push people apart and bring them together. They intrigue; they add drama. They can be playful, depressing, or horrifying. They provide a window into your character’s psyche.

Not every character in your story will reveal a heart-breaking secret, because it would overload the story. But having a mix of big and little secrets will make the story more interesting.

Exclusive Bonus: Download The Brainstorm Spark: Character Secrets to get your brain-slush pumping out ideas. 😉

Of course, you have to make sure the reader believes that the secret is consistent with the character’s personality… Keep reading to get the lowdown on the Secret cornerstone…

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The Path to Deepening Your Protagonist

Protagonists don’t write themselves. No character does. So why leave trait-choice up to the character?

Setting your protagonist’s complexities is the first step toward building a finely-tuned cast. Your protagonist is an instrument that carries the melody of your sympho… ahem, story. That instrument needs to be precisely tuned.

If you’re an intuitive writer, the character does get to determine some things. But for the good of the story, drag him through a BIT of reshaping and give him a plot-carrying tuning. Just look at what you know and shape from there.

Rational “builders” of characters will find this process more familiar. But you still probably have a starting point from which to shape the personality.

If you already have a process that’s working for you, do that. If you want to double-check with this, that’s cool too. If you’re still looking for a process that works, or if your usual isn’t pulling its weight this time around, feel free to adapt it to your needs or adopt it wholesale. There are no rules.

 But there are goals:

  • Make sure the character’s traits work together
  • Make sure the traits work well with the plot
  • Make sure a few of the traits form a theme
  • Make sure the theme works with the story theme
  • Make sure the cast works together

Keep reading for a guide to meeting those goals for your protagonist…

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The Four Pillars of Strong Characters

Four cornerstones, and now four pillars? Yep. It takes a lot to build a strong character. The cornerstones are the baseline. They set the stage.

But the pillars are where the FUN is.

Each pillar can align with a cornerstone, but that’s not the only option. Just a handy one.

Looking for Fun: Layers

The pillars are prone to layers. And we all like layers. Just ask Shrek.

Anyway, the pillars are often interdependent. The interplay between them gives you a lot of flexibility. Bend them to your will.

Don’t get intimidated by the sheer amount of possibilities ahead. You know your character.  Experiment with what fits. Have fun with it. Give yourself permission to get it wrong until you get it right.

The Four Pillars of Strong Characters are:

The Desire, the Strength, the Inner Conflict, and the Character Theme.

There’s a lot to cover, so here we go.

Keep reading to find out how the pillars can bring your character to life…

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Fit Your Process to Your Needs

Every project is different. Every writer is different. Don’t expect the time needed to be the same.

How much do you value your creativity? A writer’s creativity must come in many forms. The initial idea might be what you think of when you think of creativity, but consider the words used, the order the story is presented in, the order of the story itself, the character dynamics, and all the practical details that make up the story.

How much do you value your written clarity? Even literary authors want their readers to be able to sift out a basic comprehension of the words without too much trouble. The rest of us generally want to be understood on the first read-through, the words invisible while the reader is in a state of transport.

This isn’t a quiz. The questions are to remind you not to take those things for granted. It takes time to be creative or to be clear.
Keep reading to discover the different paths your process may need to take…

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