Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What's Your Problem?

Every main character needs two problems: one external and one internal

before you click off this post and say "duh!"

ask yourself ...

what is exactly the internal problem for your main character?
Do you really know it? inside and out? does your main character know it (they may or may not)? how will that change over the course of your story?

I recently heard an interesting point that most writers THINK they know the internal problem of their main characters...but, in fact, struggle to voice it. Try it right now. Say it out loud...is it solid?

You see.... I tend to write very "together" characters. Sometimes too much so. That can be a problem.

On the flip side, a whiny, weak, overly impulsive character can also be a problem.

You may think that the "story" part of With A Name Like Love is the murder mystery. You may think it is about an itinerant preaching family.

Those are components, yes.
But the spine of the story ... the main thrust ... is the internal problem of the main character, Ollie.

She wants a stable home. Can she ever convince her daddy to stay in one place? Or is that like asking a stream to sit and visit for a while...nature just won't allow it?

In my current WIP, I am struggling with this concept right now. I wrote the MC with a weak inner problem. I realize now that I have to go back, rethink it, beef it up.

Tell me:
which comes easier for you - creating the inner problem or the outter struggle/issues of story? the internal journey of your character or the external world?



Mary Aalgaard said...

The first thing we think about is the outter struggle, the set-up, the visual and tangible. But, if we really think about it, that all reflects the inner angst. That's really knowing your characters, making them real. Real people have lots of angst.

Tess said...

exactly, mary! w/out the inner journey - the rest of the story will fall flat. it is that 'connection' we are all looking for in our stories. It is just something I always struggle finding and it seems to take a lot of thought to get sorted out in that rough draft (at least for me)

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Woo to the Hoo...I can comment again!

This is such a HUGE point and one every writer needs to pay attention to. There's always more going on under the surface. I love the internal stuff, it's making sure my external is compelling enough and moves the story along fluidly.

Nice post!
~ Wendy

Tess said...

hooray Wendy! thanks for coming back over and trying again and thanks for letting me know of the blogger glitch.

if you get the 'internal' easiest then you are ahead of the game, I think. that is the crux, the flow of any story.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tess .. Good luck with the release of your book "With a Name called love" .. looks interesting - at least you've recognised where you need to add some beef ..

Daughters can hold their fathers down in one place .. I wonder - what Ollie does .. cheers - just come over from Sharon's .. Hilary

lotusgirl said...

Hey Tess. I'm dipping my toe in blogger again and plan to start blogging again in a few weeks. I hope you've been having a great summer. Your point here is a good one for me to think about. I thought I knew my MC's inner struggle, but it gets resolved about half way through the book, so maybe it's not really the overarching struggle. I'm going to have to think about it. Thanks for making my brain have to step it up a notch.

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss tess! for me i could always know whats the inner problem then when i get writing all the outside stuff is like going on a trip to help solve out that inner stuff. sometimes on that trip that inner one gets some extra added on to it. im doing a story right now where thats happening.
...hugs from lenny

Anita said...

I'm writing the second book in the series, and at the end of the first book, most of the internal problem was solved. Now I've got to think again, start the internal problem over somehow or come up with a new one. Weird.

Nichole Giles said...

Wow. I really have to think about this for some of my works in progress I think. Great points. Thanks!

ali said...

Well, my characters are perfect and I'm perfect so ....



Um, I'm not sure which I struggle most with. I suppose OUTER conflict is a bit weaker. I'm not very good at torturing my characters. :(

Great points, Tess!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I miss reading your wips...

Debbie / Cranberry Fries said...

A smart gal in my writing group vocalized this so well when we had all finished a popular YA book and we were still feeling unfinished. It was because while one of the problems was wrapped up in the trilogy the other was not and it felt VERY cut off. Without the external/internal knowledge though I couldn't voice why I felt like the book left me hanging.

dellgirl said...

Very interesting and thought provoking. When I get to characters (I mainly write poetry)I hope I remember this. I came by to see how you are, what you're doing and to wish you a wonderful Week.