Weakness and Need
I’ve been reading John Truby’s book, The Anatomy of Story. I like to do some reading – ideally every day, but it usually turns into once a week. I want to be sure I’m enhancing my skills as a writer. Otherwise all I’m doing is becoming a better typist (of which I’m already pretty good, and I don’t care if I get any better).
I’m beginning a new story, and I want to get myself on the right track. Truby says that your main character must have a weakness that is messing up his life somehow and holding him back in some way. There is a need inside the protagonist that he or she must fulfill to have a better existence. How is your protagonist going to grow and change?
In A Single Shard will Tree Ear get the opportunity to learn the skill of the potter? Will he satisfy grumpy Min so he’ll be able to continue as an apprentice?
Will Crispin survive after his mother’s death? Will he be able to make his way in the world? Will he learn from Bear the things that are important?
Bud, Not Buddy is desperately searching for family. Will he find them? His ‘mistaken beliefs’ are so funny, the reader cannot help laughing out loud at Curtis’s wonderful character.
Now I don’t claim to be among these great writers, but I know every time I read a new book, the character development, including the weakness and need helps me become a better writer. I just finished Ann Brashares, The Last Summer. It’s a YA and has some unnecessary sexuality in it, but the characters are so needy in the beginning. The young man, Paul, is filled with self-hate. The young girl, Alice, must confront her insecurities. The two grow and change with Alice’s sister Riley as a catalyst.
Look at your characters. Do they have an overarching weakness and need? I’m working to create protagonists that do.