An aspect crucial for any compelling character and crucial for your plot as well is assigning some kind of inner conflict to your protagonist. The best way to do that is to give them two things they want most-or possibly two goals-and putting those wants in direct opposition to one another.
An example of this is a particular inner conflict that is used quite often in romance. The well known and sometimes dreaded love triangle. Nothing is more conflicting than loving two people at the same time and trying to stick with either one or the other.
I'm gonna use twilight here despite the many eye rolls that may follow. It has a lot of critics, and many people have asked why it was so popular in the first place, but for those of you criticizing the writing in general and questioning its appeal to readers, one thing you have to look at is what Stephenie Meyer nailed, and that was inner conflict, the type of inner conflict that struck a huge emotional chord with readers everywhere.
Bella is torn between two supernatural creatures. She can't live without Edward, but she's sure she'll never recover from losing Jacob. As if that wasn't enough to deal with, she wants more than anything to become a vampire, but she'll eventually have to say good-bye to her immediate family if she chooses to give up her human life. And once she does become a vampire will she lose her humanity in the process and turn into some crazed, uncontrollable blood sucker? The inner conflicts keep piling up one right after the other.
Bella isn't the only one with conflicting issues. Edward is a huge tangle of wants and desires that can't peacefully coincide with one another. He wants human blood, but he doesn't want to kill humans. He wants to hold onto his humanity, and he wants what will tear that humanity from him. He wants Bella to be his forever, and yet he loves her so much he can't imagine turning her and subjecting her to an existence he loathes. He wants to protect her and he wants to be near her, but his close proximity to her threatens her safety as well. Protecting her involves letting her go.
Yep. Stephanie Meyer nailed it, and then targeted it towards teens who are generally chalk full of dramatic inner conflicts themselves, though those are usually of their own making. Ha! You may or may not like Bella and Edward's story, but there's no denying that they are compelling and memorable due to the compiling inner conflicts thrust upon them. If authors weren't writing about vampires before, they're certainly doing it now, as evidenced by the now saturated paranormal genre.
Emotionally tear your characters into two opposite directions. Go ahead. I give you permission.
If you want people to consider your characters compelling and memorable and to be thinking about them even after they finish your book then inner conflict is a weapon in your arsenal of writing techniques that you can't afford to ignore.
Now think of your own characters and consider a few things.
Just remember that inner conflict equals compelling characters, and compelling characters equals a story your readers won't be able to put down.
If you're looking for more resources on crafting compelling characters, I highly recommend you pick up the book, Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. I have highlighted this sucker like crazy!
I love this book. It has been an incredible guide and reference whenever I begin crafting plots and characters. I hope it can be a helpful resource for you as you continue refining your writing process.
Happy writing author friends!
The Blond Guerrilla
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