Character development & Plot: Why is it important that the main character NOT get what he/she wants?

by Michael Esser

The art of telling a compelling story that not only sucks in your audience, but at the same time creates a three dimensional world in which your characters can truly come to life is the sign of a great writer.

If you were to simply attempt to take your audience from point A to point Z without exploring the other 24 letters of the alphabet, you're not only going to miss out on a huge opportunity to educate, inform, and inspire them with your heroes and villains, but you're probably going to fail keeping them as well. Without an element of adversity or conflict, you simply can't tell a full story effectively.

For example, if Indiana Jones would have just found the lost ark without any adversity, you would have missed out on all the critical thinking Dr. Jones used to track down the hidden treasure not to mention on those elements that made his story a classic like giant boulders, snake pits, and iconic fight scenes. Obstacles and conflicts do a lot to drive your story forward, and at times become the most memorable pieces of it.

Below are some of the primary reasons it is crucial your main character spend most of the novel working toward something and failing to achieve it.

Creating tension and drama

If your main character gets their way throughout your story line, your audience will struggle to connect. In real life we're faced with adversity all the time and sometimes in our real lives we wish we could overcome those moments heroically.

That's why when we're looking to be swept by a story we want characters that we can relate to and live through vicariously. The more tension and drama present in a story, the more opportunities there are that one or more of those instances will strike a chord with an audience member.

Keeping the audience engaged

It's that hunt for knowledge, that desire to understand what happens next that keeps your reader turning pages. By creating layers of adversity before your hero, you're setting your audience up to be in a position to remain intrigued.

You implant a thought in their minds that has them thinking about how their new friend, your lead, is going to overcome each new challenge.

Teaching your readers about the character

Along with the drama and engagement that adversity brings to your characters lives, it also presents an opportunity for audience members to learn more about who your lead is as a person.

After all, how a main character handles the challenges put before them can really paint a deeper, more relatable picture of who they are and the life they've lived.

In the end...

It's your job to help your audience to understand your characters. From the way they react to bad news to what they do when their back is against the wall, or how they rise to the occasion tell a story in itself, your characters' challenges show their true colors, keep things interesting and allow your readers a realistic connection point.




Information provided by the Author Learning Center.