Every Wednesday, I post a writing prompt here. You write about it, if it tickles your creativity bone, and then come share what you wrote on Facebook to get some feedback and see what the other Ninjas have come up with. My goal with these prompts will to be to make them something that can move your current work-in-progress forward.
What is Your Hero Missing?
It can be hard sometimes to think of a really juicy flaw for your story’s hero, something that will make them someone your readers can relate to and give them a place to rise up from.
That flaw is necessary. Without it, it’s so easy to write a boring, one-dimensional character that no one cares about getting to know.
Here’s an exercise that I’ve found that helps me to deepen my main character by finding that one flaw. It has two parts.
First, I want you to think about what your hero is missing.
What is the thing that’s left a hole in their life? It might be something tangible–a missing parent, a dead child or spouse, an amputated limb, homelessness. Or it might be metaphysical–a broken heart or a crisis of faith. This is a doubly good exercise, because it will start you thinking about your hero’s motivations in the story. Think about what drives them to move out of the comfort of their ordinary life (and ordinary lives are comfortable, no matter how much discomfort might be involved in them. Human beings don’t generally like change much) and into the special, scary, unknown world of the story.
Once you’ve figured out what your hero is missing, decide how that missing thing has left them broken.
Think about what that missing thing in your hero has done to them. How has it changed them? How has it left them broken? Your hero’s flaw lies in that broken place.
My work-in-process is a retelling of Robin Hood. My hero is a 17-year-old boy named Rob Huntington. Rob is missing both of his parents. His mother died when he was six and his father died just prior to the start of the story. He’s been away at boarding school for two years, so even when his father was alive, Rob was missing a day-to-day connection with him. Rob has had a close, but complicated relationship with his father most of his life. His father never stopped grieving for his dead wife, which caused a layer of separation between father and son that they never overcame.
This lack of parents has left Rob with a broken sense of himself. He’s always known he was his father’s heir, but he didn’t expect for that to mean anything so soon. He has always known that he would have to live up to his father’s legacy, and he’s always believed deep down that he would fail. He hides his loneliness and self-doubt with arrogance. That arrogance is the flaw that might end up being fatal. It’s what he has to push past in order to survive. He has also developed a deep need to be loved, which drives him throughout the story. It’s something he has to temper, because it keeps him from seeing that the people closest to him are dangerous.
Come on over to the Ninja Writers Facebook group and share your work. Get some feedback, leave some feedback–get involved in the community. I can’t wait to read what you come up with!
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