The Four Pillars of Fiction Part 2: Characters

Your story’s objective is only as powerful as the characters that convey it.

Each member of the cast must represent opposing sides of the main argument, thus providing several different angles to perceive your story’s philosophy.

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I’ve already written a couple of other posts about characters, both of which you can check out here for more:

Crafting a Character Series

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict

–but for today, let’s focus on why characters  should be as extensively explored as I have in previous posts.

Me, Myself, and Who Am I?

Fundamentally, every story’s main character is on a quest to achieve self-knowledge. This goes for both putty characters and pebble characters. Think of throwing a pebble at a wall, the physical structure of the pebble remains the same, whereas throwing a blob of putty will cause it to reform.

That’s what characters experience; being thrown against a wall, so to speak, and they either change or don’t change throughout the course of your story. Either way, their purpose remains the same; to argue for one or several sides of the objective.

I know that there’s a plethora of stories where morality is ambiguous (and that they’re usually much more interesting), but for the sake of simplicity, let’s take the basic concept of Good vs Evil to illustrate how characters argue for each side. And by argue, that could mean verbal or physical combat, or in just the way that they conduct themselves.

Generic Good Guy is a law abiding citizen, doing some good for his friends, family, and community. Everything he does in the story is for the benefit of others or for himself without hurting anybody except possibly…

The Typical Bad Guy whose sole purpose is to watch the world burn. He causes destruction everywhere he goes, expressing his preference to be evil and not care about hurting others because it’s what he intends anyway. Generic Good Guy may hurt other people unintentionally, but he usually owns up to it, while Typical Bad Guy has no remorse for the pain he causes.

In this basic story dynamic of Good vs Evil, the argument is (usually) that good triumphs over evil, all the time.

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Who Would You Be Without Adversity?

To convey this, Typical Bad Guy will have to test Generic Good Guy on the grounds of his ethics, philosophy, strength, and integrity by throwing obstacles in his way. Perhaps Generic Good Guy’s objective is to a safe and adjusted life, but TBG is getting in the way of that by hurting GGG’s social circle and disrupting his day to day life.

It is through adversity where Generic Good Guy will discover or grow into a force for good. If he’s a putty character, maybe he’s a weak underdog type who has to train in order to defeat the almight Typical Bad Guy. Or perhaps he’s a pebble character that has strength and prowess, but hasn’t had the chance to exercise any of it because he hasn’t been challenged yet.

In either case, the end result is the same. The character has developed some level of self-knowledge by fighting for what he believed in, whether he won or lost against his opposition. He now knows what strength he’s capable of, or made himself capable of it through hard work and determination.

Pouring Some Sugar in Generic Brand Oatmeal

Now, that was a very very basic example I had to keep simple in order to elaborate on a more complex concept. Stories these days have many more layers in their examination of the objective, and even more layers in their characterization.

Ultimately, characters are meant to represent several sides of an objective, and they do that by trying to express their personal preferences, only to have them attacked or dismissed by the other characters.

The key ingredient to conveying Objective is having characters disagree with each other and fight over who gets to assert their preference, or if any common ground can be met between them in less black and white type of stories.It is through disagreements between characters that we are given the opportunity to passively experience different sides of an argument–and decide for ourselves which characters we agree with, if any at all.

Stay tuned for The Four Pillars of Fiction Part 3: Setting…

The Four Pillars of Fiction: Introduction

The Four Pillars of Fiction need to be structurally sound in order to maintain your story’s integrity. Each pillar needs to be of equal height and width of the other pillars, or you may end up with a lopsided surface.

But with every rule comes an exception, and there are times where uneven pillars can either work for or against the story. We shall explore the convention of an even structure, and the possibility of leaving one intentionally short within good reason.

4 pillars

Welcome to a four part series where I will be detailing the fundamentals of writing fiction!

Together we will go into great on crafting solid blueprints that will help you develop a firm foundation for your story. Each pillar should seamlessly compliment each other and ultimately deliver a rivetting and captivating experience for your readers.

Part 1: PLOT

The plot is the pillar built from the events in your story. Every scene has a purpose, and every significant plot point must simutaneously ask new questions and reveal vital information about the world and its inhabitants.

Part 2: Characters

Without any characters, there is no story. We need some form of a sentient being in which to experience the world through, as well as relate to in terms of emotionality and intellectual stimulation. I’ve already made several posts about characters, and that very fact alone is reason enough to prove just how important it is to have solid characters in your story.

Part 3: Setting

Likewise with characters, a physical setting is required for a story or your characters will just be interacting in an empty vacuum. The world in which they inhabit needs to exist within the metaphysical laws of your story in terms of its relation to reality.

Magic? Technology? Or just plain contemporary? Whatever your setting is, it must serve as a logical physical playground for your characters to act out their particular drama.

Part 4: Dialogue

We relate and reveal through conversation. What do your characters have to say about the world, themselves, and their situations? To each other? Every character is equipped with their own unique way of speaking that expresses their desires and inner turmoil.

And of course, conversation is not just limited to verbal communication. We will also take a look at how non-verbal communication can serve as a solid substitute for conventional dialogue.

Pack Your Bags For an Adventure

And that is all for a quick overview of what I will be covering in the next couple of weeks.

I hope you are as excited as I am right now to delve into The Four Pillars of Fiction!

Bring your existing tools and be ready to sharpen them, as well as craft several new ones along the way. Together we will build the most structurally sound stories.

 

Offering FREE Creative Consulting

Digital-Campfire-StorytellingStorytelling.

Think; gathering over a camp fire. Feel the warmth on your skin and in your heart. That is what stories provide us: warmth and connectivity.

Do you have a story burning up inside you?

Want to stoke the flame and tell that story to the world, a small audience–or do you simply want to write something for your eyes only?

If you need help on generating, connecting, and re-evaluating ideas, I can help.

From now until the end of September, I am offering FREE Creative Consulting!

In our sessions we will build your fictional world, or reconstruct your reality onto the page in a stylized and purposeful way. Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, we will discover what you truly want to convey.

Together we can create your:

– Plot/Theme/Philosophy

– Characters (their relationships with each other, and impact to the story)

– Setting and its significance to the Plot and Characters

– Dialogue nuances between your characters and any running gags or motifs

 

I will also be reading your content to give you critiques that will reveal where your strengths and weaknesses are as a writer, and help you reach your potential.

If you want these little embers to erupt into an inferno, drop me a line and we can work out a coaching schedule that works for you!

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