Creating Unforgettable Characters, Part 4
In my last post we explored Internal and External Goals. Each of us has things we value. It makes us ‘tick.’ We don’t always recognize, though, what our values or goals are. We roll on in life doing what we believe is right and never stop to ask why we act the way we do or if our actions are correct.
When you create characters, spice things up with conflict. Your story and the characters become more interesting when life isn’t normal. Giving your characters conflicting values is one way to do that.
Let’s say your hero places money above everything else in life. That may seem selfish, but it’s who he is. Money is his ‘core value’ or his ‘internal goal.’ Place him in a position to lose his money and you have a conflict. Give him a reason to spend his money on a worthy cause that he would normally ignore. You’ve created a deeper conflict. Now he’s in a position that requires a choice. It will challenge his core value and could bring about a change in the way he thinks and behaves.
Example: Mr. Rich loves his money. He meets a person who touches his heart. This person needs money and is in a desperate situation. Mr. Rich’s money would change their life. Nothing has ever tempted him to part with his money. He has a huge internal conflict. Will Mr. Rich keep his money and ignore this person? Will he follow the leading of his heart, change his core value, and share the wealth? What would it take to make him change his attitude? If he shares, will it cause a permanent change or will he go back to life as usual?
Did you recognize the story of Scrooge in the example? Tiny Tim created a conflict that forced Scrooge to make a choice. This “internal conflict” propelled the story. It forced Scrooge to make a choice and it uncovered a deeper value. He learned that people are more important than money. His core value changed. Scrooge learns some hard lessons before he lets go of his money. In his case, it’s a permanent change.
Examine the internal goals of a character you’re creating. Insert something that will challenge their core value. Choose something that forces him or her to make a hard choice. Some people don’t change when the conflicts come. They remain the same and never grow. And there could be a time when their core value is correct and the conflicts they face confirm this.
Choose one of the following items for your writing lesson.
- Show by his or her actions how the conflict makes a positve change in their core value. Show how they fail to change when the conflict arises.
- Show how your character faces a conflict that proves their core values were correct. Show how they maintain that value when it’s challenged.