Friday, April 15, 2022

Karen S. Wiesner: It's a Miracle, Lois! or Why Your Hero Needs to be the Hero of His Own Story

Based on CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction {A Writer's Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plot, and Relationships}

The resolution at the end of a story with improper CPR (Character Plot Relationship) development may read the way a miracle does to those who witness it. Literally, the resolution came out of nowhere and was in no way hinted at, let alone justified, in advance. It defies all logic. Against all odds, somehow (and readers are usually never enlightened or are told in a mishmashed way) the character had an epiphany that magically changed everything. This character became Superman and turned the Earth on its axis so she'd have a "do-over". Maybe a higher being intervened in order for everything to come up roses for her. The "deus ex machina" resolved the conflict, not the character. This god in the machine device introduced a resolution brought about by something outside of the story, something cataclysmic or even supernatural that’s not cohesive or logical with the rest of the story.

To give you an example, I had a problem writing the third novel in my Wounded Warriors Series. Mirror Mirror is romantic paranormal psychological thriller. Spoiler alert! This book continued to elude my best efforts to create something wonderful, suspenseful, and cohesive. My first draft of the book was so bad, I refused to send it to my publisher, even if it meant keeping my fans waiting. I made a long list of notes on all I thought was wrong with the book (believe me, it was a huge document!), then I put the book in my story cupboard for three months in order to get the story brewing on a low flame again. At that time, I came up with another unworkable outline.       

Feeling increasingly desperate, I put the story aside again, terrified I’d never finish something that had already been promoted as “coming soon”. More months went by, during which I had a series of creative percolations that made me rethink the direction of the book. I reshaped all my characters and relationships, consciously trying to flesh them out in ways that related to the plot much more than they had in the past. 

However, it wasn’t until I realized something so obvious, I feel silly about it now that I finally knew why my previous drafts hadn’t worked. The heroine wasn’t directly involved in the resolution of the plot. How could this character achieve her full potential if other characters solved her problems for her? How could the story be cohesive if the character had nothing to do with how the conflicts wrapped up? 

My second realization was that I had to make the plot and subplots fit more naturally with my main character’s struggle not to accept her gift of clairvoyance by pushing it away and feeling ashamed for it. She needed to use her gift in order to solve her problems. Also, her relationships, and how those related to the villain, needed more cohesion. 

I also acknowledged that my little hint earlier in the book that the villain was terrified of dogs was the key to having her save the day. Finally, I decided that the “glue” in making my story cohesive was to make the hero and the heroine’s pasts merge and parallel. Everything fell into place after that. 

You see the challenges I had with the book. I had to make the heroine’s gift of clairvoyance and her beloved dog mesh with the villain’s terrifying curse of clairvoyance and his fear of dogs. All of these things had to fit with the hero and heroine’s pasts, which intersected in ways neither of them ever dreamed prior to the "present" time in the story. The relationships of all the characters also needed to work with conflicts, goals and motivations. I wasn’t sure I’d fully succeeded in this task until a reviewer said of the book, "An excellent psychic thriller that will have you holding your breath until your lungs ache. The author uses her writing gift to connect both Gwen and Dylan’s pasts with a dark, menacing force and tangles a web so strong that readers will not want to stop reading."    

You can’t wrap up a story with an act of nature, something symbolic that parallels a character’s conflict but isn’t actually part of it, or in a (godlike) stranger-to-the-rescue type of event--it won’t be believable or fair to the reader, who’s spent the entire novel waiting to see your characters, plots, and the relationships reach the goal of logical, cohesive self-fulfillment and success.

The main POV character absolutely has to lead the action and save the day on her own without supernatural or miraculous intervention. She isn't in a supporting role, nor can she be rescued when the going gets tough. She can't fall backwards into success. This is her story, her time to be a superhero, her moment in the spotlight. As Galadriel said to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, "This task was appointed to you. And if you do not find a way, no one will.” Or should. 

Never allow resolutions to stem from symbolism, events, or other people. Clear and cohesive choice, purpose, and action are the only viable resolutions. Don't take the true victory away from your main characters by letting anyone or anything else do the work for them.  

Are there defy-explanation moments in your story? You may need to rework your CPR developments to make sure your POV characters are doing their jobs and not letting someone or something else do it for them.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of CPR for Dead or Lifeless Fiction {A Writer's Guide to Deep and Multifaceted Development and Progression of Characters, Plot, and Relationships}, Volume 6 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Happy reading!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 140 titles and 16 series, including MIRROR MIRROR, Book 5: Wounded Warriors Series

No comments:

Post a Comment