Thursday, May 12, 2011

Never Rescue Your Character (notes on Larry Brooks)

This is Part Three of Three... so far. Let's see if I can wind up this spectacular two-hour conference presentation in three posts. :)

Part One: Developing Story Concept
Part Two: Continuity in Story
and now...

Pic from this healthy website

Part Three: Never Rescue Your Character

Do not rescue your hero. He must save himself and the day through his own character growth.

He faces two demons:

  • external
  • internal

The internal demon blocks him from making the best decisions in a given moment. It must be conquered in order for the external demon to be beatable.

(For instance, Harry Potter has to know and embrace that he is the chosen one, that he's special, in order to face Voldemort in the climax scene of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Remember that Harry doesn't even believe he's a wizard in Book 1 when Hagrid comes to retrieve him. "I can't be a wizard. I'm just Harry." There are many other internal demons, but this is the one he starts with, and one that must be conquered before he can face his external demon, Voldemort.)

Character ARC: hero conquering or putting aside an inner demon so he can do what must be done to conquer the external demon. 

What does your hero fear? What mask does he wear? How does he present himself to the world and why? And who is he really? You can answer this by putting him in a crisis and watching him act. Who will he save first, or will he turn tail and run? 

Don't over-quirk your hero. Readers are the ultimate BS detectors when it comes to characterization. Actually, Larry Brooks is talking specifically about characterization on his storyfix blog today! Perfect, right? Check that out here. Your hero should be unique, but not contrived.

Okay, it looks like we've got one more blog post worth of notes, so tomorrow I'll continue with Theme and Story Structure and we'll have a total of FOUR Larry Brooks posts. 

I hope my notes above are as mind-expanding for you as they were for me. It's been fun sitting down with a paper and pen and plotting when to conquer that internal demon and how to conquer the external ones. 

Happy Writing!

Matthew Rush posted his debut review of STICK by Andrew Smith on Afterglow this morning.

Operation Awesome's Michelle McLean ruminates on the decision all writers face at some point, to shelve or not to shelve that tricky novel. 

There's still a week to win Hex Hall, Break, or The Liar Society in my Blogiversary Giveaway, so stop by with a comment and follow if you're not already. Thanks guys!!


  1. Thank you, Matt! It was a great session for me. I learned a lot and especially this bit about not rescuing your character. That was something I needed to hear.

  2. This is great, Katrina. And so true! I'm so tempted to make it easier for my characters, and I know I can't! :)

  3. More awesome tips~ I love it! Thanks so much for sharing these juicy tidbits :)

  4. Love it! Isn't if fun to put characters to the test and see if they have achieved great characterization or if they still need work.


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