This brief lesson is a continuation on the last lesson about your protagonist’s choices.
As important as it is for your protagonist to make choices that decides her own fate, it’s just as important to make those choices hard.
Which choice creates more drama:
Option One: Thirteen dwarves visit a hobbit named Bilbo to invite him on a quest to defeat a dragon and take its treasure. He readily agrees and they skip off.
Option Two: Thirteen mangy dwarves unexpectedly visit a fat, comfortable hobbit named Bilbo. They eat him out of house and hobbit hole, while he watches on frustrated. Then they invite him on a quest to kill a dragon who once destroyed an entire city and steal its treasure, a quest that will likely involve his death and will certainly involve discomfort and constant fear.
He immediately chooses not to go on the quest. Why leave the comfort of his cozy hobbit hole? Even when the dwarves tell him he will receive more treasure than he could possibly imagine, and Gandalf makes a heartfelt plea, showing him how the adventure will improve his live, he says no.
However, at the last possible moment, he decides as cozy as his hobbit hole is, the adventure offers something his life is missing (namely excitement and companionship), and he decides to join the quest.
How to Create Dramatic Choices
This isn’t a hard choice, right?
The best stories rarely involve the protagonist making instant decisions. Instead, protagonists must debate over their choices, waffling from one option to another, sometimes for quite a long time, before finally choosing to pursue their goal.
This process of debate creates the drama your story desperately needs. It creates drama in two important ways:
- Inspires Doubt in Your Readers. The process of debate makes your reader ask, “Is she going to choose the adventure or stay stuck in the status quo?”
- Raises the Stakes. The process of debate involves considering the consequences of the choice. It reveals how difficult achieving the goal will be. No one wants a story to be easy, and increasing the stakes will increase the reader’s interest.
If you’re writing a romantic comedy, don’t have your characters fall in love easily. If you’re writing a detective novel, don’t let your protagonist readily take on the case. If you’re writing fantasy, don’t let your protagonist begin the adventure without waffling over the dangers.
Instead, make it hard.
Audit the story you chose in the first lesson with the following questions:
- Does your protagonist go through the process of debate, waffling over her choice?
- What are the consequences of your character’s choice? Are they severe enough? How can you raise the stakes?
Let us know how your audit went in the comments section below.
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