The three-hour lecture on day two centered on keeping your protagonist engaging, followed by work on the antagonist. Below are my notes from the session:
Keeping our characters engaging throughout the novel:
The main character (MC) should have quirks or ticks or oddities.
Write down one thing that is a foundational attribute of your MC:
Invent an odd tick or habit that implies they are opposite. Twist it to get make the habit a bit strange. One quirk is enough for one book. Looking to create a contradiction. CREATES AN INTERESTING CONTRIDICTION.
ASSIGNMENT: Find 4 places in the story where this quirk is evident.
What is one thing your MC can do that nobody else can?
Can you give your MC a paranormal gift or super power?
What about unpredictable consequences of your MC's actions?
Try giving your protagonist a handicap of some type?
A condition or impairment?
Research how ordinary tasks are difficult or changed by having this condition. Project forward this handicap and make it part of your character’s life, day to day.
What could be hard to explain about your protagonist?
Have this come up at least 5 more times.
Think of one thing that your protagonist would do that nobody would ever expect for them to do? Or one thing you would never expect them to say, think or feel?
Put it into your MS and Delay the explanation by at least two chapters.
RESISTANCE IS YOUR FRIEND, BECAUSE IT’S POINTING YOU TO THE VERY THING YOU NEED TO WORK ON. IF YOU FIND ANYTHING DIFFICULT, DO NOT NEGELECT TO DO IT LATER, BECAUSE THAT IS WHERE YOUR WRITING IS WEAK.
How do we continue to make our MC intimately interesting to our readers?
THINGS THAT YOUR CHARACTER MIGHT HAVE AN OPINION ABOUT:
Money, prayer, pop music, abstract art, mini vans, modern dance, 4th down passes, hand tailored suits, bow ties, raw food, blended whisky.
This opens up our characters to our readers so that our character’s lives are rich and full and dynamic to our readers. People others like to be around are all passionately engaged in life and they are open, dynamically engaged, always questioning, unafraid to express their opinions, be themselves in a big way.
Your MC must be awake, aware, engaged, passionate about life. They have opinions. Characters with strong opinions stir strong feelings in us. We must show their passionate engagement with life.
Find in any scene in the middle, something small that happens and goes by.
THIS REPRESENTS FINDING MOMENTS WHEN YOUR PROTAGONIST CAN SEE THE BIG PICTURE. This is one way to “spend time with” the character.
Homework: There are many things about which your P can have opinions and feelings:
Pick something for your protagonist has strong feelings about, with another character. Pick 3 spots where your P can pause and think about measure and have an opinion about (i.e. how they see this relationship). Spend some time quantifying the quality of the relationship itself – the nature, the character, the progress and how it changes. This shows passionate engagement of life. This creates more opportunities for the reader to be engaged by this character.
Name your Antagonist. (In a romance, the problem can be the hero. When in the head of the hero, the heroin can be the antagonist in his POV.)
Antagonists are often one-dimensional steriotypes.
What is the worst thing that your antagonist will do?
What is it that your antagonist believes in?
For antagonists to really come alive and begin to scare us, we’ve got to see them as real. An easy way to do it is to make them reluctant or repelled by what they must do. Most bad people are highly justified (in their minds). When you can see it the villain’s way is very unsettling, and that gets the reader emotionally unbalanced – that’s when evil becomes real.
Homework: Give yourself a half-hour and find 3 new times and ways for your protagonist and antagonist to come together face-to-face in the story.