Three Out of Four of These are Real

By Aryanne Ferguson

Hey there, Reader. They say there are two types of stories: the ones where stuff happens to the character, and the ones where the character happens. Don’t worry, Reader, they’re oversimplifying as always.  Here’s what (I think) they mean:

The stories where stuff happens to the character are the ones where outside forces are the reason you keep reading. Say, the hero is mistaken for someone else by the wrong people, so he’s forced to go on the run for the whole novel while he scrambles to clear his name. Or the heroine’s family was murdered when she was a child and years later a group of fanatics pay her to investigate the real killer(s?) behind their deaths.

The stories where the character happens are those that center around the main character’s personal growth and development. It’s a normal day in suburban America; our hero agonizes over his worsening relationship with his wife, while he performs all the duties of a faithful stay-at-home dad. Or, a woman nearing retirement ditches her employees in favor of a road trip with her ditzy best friend to her aging aunt’s ranch in Texas (three out of four of these are real novels).

So what type of story are you writing? Confession – I like writing the character happening kind, but I struggle with holding a reader’s interest. My writing goes like this: Yes! – I thought of an awesome abstract idea and there it is written out, and there goes my character living through it… Now what? What’s the actual story?




Story death.

So maybe your story is the kind where an outside event happens to the character and he/she is forced into some type of action. The danger there is spending so much time in the reaction that you forget who the character is. Who cares about your character’s favorite ice cream when they’re hiding from a group of bad men dressed in impeccable tailored suits? But a little humanizing goes a long way – it never hurts to have your readers empathize with the people who populate the world you’re showing them.

So is it conflict or character? Or both? Let us know!

You can send me an email at: aryanne [AT] augustrosepress [DOT] com

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