Continuing our week of prompts aimed at creating rich backstory for novelists and short story writers alike, today we create an alternate story for your protagonist.
There is a moment in every story where a protagonist has to make a choice: to take up the challenge of the story or to turn away. Everything else flows from that.
Today, write a story in which your protagonist makes the other choice.
- This will, of course, result in a shorter story than otherwise.
- It will still have fallout. (Think: It’s A Wonderful Life, Sliding Doors etc.)
- Examine that fallout in a story.
Don’t forget to leave a comment, or do your Victory Dance in the community.
Continuing our series of prompts to help novelists as well as short story writers, today I encourage you to move forward a little in your protagonist’s timeline, but still stay before the main story.
Write a story about the days leading up to the beginning of your novel, or your story’s big incident. Alternatively, write a journal of those days from your protagonist’s point of view.
- Use this story to ‘brain dump’ all the stuff that your reader doesn’t want to wade through before they get to the jumping-off-point for your story.
- You can use this knowledge to season the story later, with a light hand.
- Remember, you can recycle these stories are freebies and giveaways to help you promote your novel and build your audience.
Don’t forget to leave a comment to let us know how you got on, or post in The Victory Dance
This week I’m focusing on prompts that novelists can use. If you’re novelist, I don’t want you to feel like you’re wasting your time here at StoryADay May. While short story writers can easily use these prompts, too, you novelists will find much in them that enriches your work-in-progress.
Let’s dive in:
Write a story that investigates a turning point in your protagonist’s past.
- Every interesting character has an internal struggle fighting with (or complementing) the external struggle of the plot. It usually stems from a character flaw/defect/protection mechanism they’ve been building for years. Use this prompt to write a story that captures the beginning of that character development.
- If you don’t have a novel or work in progress, investigate a character from an earlier story you’ve written (or one you hope to write).
Lisa Cron’s Story Genius (referenced in the video) can be found here or requested through your local indie bookstore.
Today we’re moving on to another element of story: your protagonist
Write a story with the flawed protagonist
This is kind of a cheat because every protagonist should have a flaw, but today we’re going to focus on that.
Characters are interesting for many reasons. They can be interesting because we identify with them, because we don’t like them, because they’re better than us at something, because they have some special gift, many reasons. But they are not interesting if they are perfect.
Think about Luke Skywalker, the hero of the Star Wars original trilogy. He has a gift, but is really annoying at the beginning of the story. He’s whiny. He’s immature. He’s rash. He puts other people in danger, all because he’s bored. All of which means that he has an interesting character arc on which to travel.
In the Amelia Peabody mysteries Amelia is ahead of her time: a brilliant Egyptologist, she’s rich, she has a fabulous husband, she’s very confident… she’s also hysterically self delusional, and fails to admit any of her own faults, while pointing out those of everyone else, at all times. She is a fun character, not because of the stuff she’s good at, but because of the stuff she doesn’t even realize she’s bad at.
Who can you write about today? Write a list of their attractive qualities and then give them one big weakness. It doesn’t have to be a fatal, heroic flaw that’s going to cause their downfall, although it can be if that’s what you want to write. It could be something as simple as Hermione Granger, being a bit of a pain in the neck, even though she’s so clever. In the first Harry Potter book, that flaw isolates her from her friends at the very moment when she needs them.
Concoct a scenario for your character where they get to show off their good talents but where their flaw is going to cause them problems. Then, write your way out of it.
If you get stuck at any point simply start a new paragraph with the words “And because of that…” and continue writing. Do this at least three times, then resolve the situation and you’ll have a complete story.
Remember, use these tricks, and then clean them up in the rewrite. It’s not like you got anything else to do in the month of June, is it?
Leave a comment to tell us what flaw you chose for you protagonist. Got any tips on how to keep writing as we head in to the middle of the month? Share them here!