Thanks to the upcoming A-Z Challenge, the prompt for today is to make your characters face an Insurmountable Challenge
Of course YOU know that they can face it and tackle it. YOU know what they're capable of. YOU as the author know everything that's about to happen in this story of yours, right?
If you've been writing for ANY length of time, you know that you DON'T know everything. Stories have a life of their own and many times we can put something in and our characters take it in a completely different direction than we'd initially hoped. That's the beauty of writing. We're guides, suggestion boxes. Once our characters become flesh and blood, ink and bone, we have no more right to tell them what to do. We can gently suggest, we can steer, we can even bribe, cajole, or blackmail. Time and time again, however, I find my characters doing things I never EVER had planned for them.
And that's one of the reasons I keep writing!
This prompt is two-fold. First of all, come up with something terrible, awful, something that you yourself have faced or something you fear. Something that you'd move heaven and earth to avoid. Throw your characters in the mix and let 'em at it. Guide them to the summit. Lead them to victory! What did they learn? How did they change? How did they act, interact? What did you learn about them and the story?
Second, put them up against the same situation and have them fail. Yes, you read that right. Let your characters fail. Everyone loves a happy ending. Quite frankly I've read books where almost everything goes wrong and everyone dies except one character and I'm left feeling like I've wasted the hours that went into reading the gosh-awful mess. Resolve is kind to the reader and there has to be SOME sort of prize at the end. But to add realism there has to be some things that happen your characters did not intend, things that bring them closer together or pull them apart. It's just scene, a season, but it's imperative to add a dose of reality to your stories, no matter how fantastic they are. 'Cause let's face it: things happen and we don't always get the brass ring. If we pay attention, however, learn from our mistakes, from the failings, we'll tackle the next challenge with greater grace and poise.
That's what we want from our characters. They start out as one thing and end as another. Growth is one of the most enduring themes in any story. Putting your peeps up against some pretty crazy odds and having them fight, lose, fight and win will really give them the edge they need to triumph in the end.