“When a character’s hurts are unique and specific, what propels them on their journeys- motivates them- paradoxically becoming universal.”. Donald Maass, a leading literary agent explains why many novels fail to sell and what writers can and must do to succeed. ” the deeper you dig into what drives your protagonist, the more readers will be able to connect.”
He tells us ” when actions, motives and principles come together the effect can be profound.” In order to really connect with your reader, you must have your protagonist weighed down by some sort of struggle, defy the odds and ultimately succeed at the end. His strength of character could be revealed through the slow exposure of his ” inner struggle” ( universal-thus connecting with your reader) and his ultimate victory over it by the end. You could try sending this main character on some type of mission to save “the world” and as he does he also saves himself.
This does not mean the writer must create a superhero; on the contrary, the more ordinary the character and the more ” relatable” his dilemna , the more likely the reader is to connect – feeling what the character on the mission feels. Mix in the slow breakdown of the character’s resistance to ” fall in love, forgive his brother or her sister, forget the past …” whatever the dilemna he or she fights, the greater the tension and the bigger draw for the reader.
After all, in our own everyday lives aren’t our biggest accomplishments the ones we fought hardest to get? How far would you allow yourself to be held captive to your own life story had there not been inner and outer struggles to overcome along the way? My guess is that you would lose interest in your main character, becoming detached and bored, and all too prematurely put the book aside, turning the lights out early – preferring to sleep instead!
When creating a story the writer must remember to shape the protagonist by her hurts- reveal her growing inner strength as she slowly overcomes her pain- the same way each of us as human beings hope to do in our own everyday real lives. By healing ourselves of our hurts , and the writer’s characters of theirs, we heal our readers of their own.