Wednesday, May 23, 2018

How To Write A Novel Readers Love - The Others

Dear Storyteller,

Way to go! You've created your protagonist. You’ve also given her a meaningful goal and a longstanding misbelief—the perfect ingredients for an enduring inner struggle.

But what about your other major characters?

Unless you plan to write a novel where your protagonist spends his entire time marooned on a deserted island, alone, he will have to interact with someone else at some point in the story. Chances are excellent that he'll have several major characters to interact with throughout the novel.

The most important thing you need to know about your other major characters is the reason why each of them appears in the story. They're not there simply to occupy 200 to 300 pages just as window dressing. They must have a compelling reason to be in your narrative.

Keep this truth in mind: The main reason why your other major characters have a place in the story is because they'll ultimately have a significant influence on your heroine’s internal change. Yes, these characters each have their own agenda, but the thing you need to make sure of is that these characters’ goals either help or hinder your protagonist concerning the pursuit of her goal.

How will you accomplish this? It’s simple. But it requires some work.

You know how to create a monumental goal and an equally monumental longstanding misbelief for your hero. You can now put this knowledge to work by creating goals and misbeliefs for each of your other major characters.

Let’s look at a snapshot of the other major characters in my young adult novel From Bad Girl To Worse.

  • Alexis “Lexie” Brockway – Sandra’s newfound best friend
  • Michael “Mack” Adcock – Sandra’s newfound love interest
  • Jeffrey “Stan” Stanley – newfound necessary evil friend and leader of the crew of criminals that Sandra joins.
  • Daniel “Del” Deltore – the hang-around of the crew, and annoyance of Sandra.

Here’s a quick rundown of each character’s goals and misbeliefs.

  • Lexie’s goal – Lexie wants someone in her life she can trust.
  • Lexie’s misbelief – Lexie believes people will befriend her only to use her to get what they want. She believes she’s just a pawn in someone else’s game.
  • Mack’s goal – Mack wants to feel like he really matters to someone. He desires to feel important and needed by others.
  • Mack’s misbelief – Mack feels like he’s invisible to people. He feels overlooked, brushed aside by the people in his life.
  • Stan’s goal – Stan wants to be as bad of a bad guy as his father and his criminal uncle, Gav. He wants credibility as a hardcore criminal.
  • Stan’s misbelief – Stan believes that he’s worthless. He’s nothing to nobody. He believes he'll always be nothing but a gigantic loser.
  • Del’s goal – Del wants people he can call friends. He wants to belong to a group and feel like he’s a part of something. Anything.
  • Del’s misbelief – Del believes that in order to gain friends, he’s got to do whatever someone else tells or dares him to do. Even if it means degrading or incriminating himself. He feels like he has to debase himself to gain acceptance.

Hopefully, you're able to spot two things in these character sketches. First, you should spot how everyone has different specific goals and misbeliefs, yet somehow they all play into Sandra’s driving need for acceptance. Second, you should spot the toxic mix of desires and wounds in each of these characters, which is sure to cause nothing but trouble for poor Sandra.

And that’s exactly what readers want to see—the emotional train wreck that will happen when all of these characters get together. 

Creating significant goals and longstanding misbeliefs for your other major characters is a key element in crafting a novel that readers love.

Don’t think of it as hard work. Think of it as fun—because it is.

In my next letter to you, we will dive into how to construct your story line.

Happy writing,

L. R. Farren
Author of From Bad Girl To Worse
and The Dangerous Way Home

P. S. – Your other major characters should aggressively challenge your protagonist’s longstanding misbelief and force her to confront and overcome it. 

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