Oftentimes new writers gather all the tools they need for their WIPs: pen, laptop, plot-writing books, character development blogs, villain sketches – you know how it goes. With all of these elements, there’s still one thing that’s missing, something that can hurt your novel and you won’t even know it until the reviews start pouring in. 

What I’m referring to are the decisions that your characters make. I’ve read quite a few works where the main character meanders through a tough world that squeezes every ounce of life out of him. The characters are unique, their voices being fleshed out to perfection. But if your main character is being pinballed around the world, this can create a drab experience for the reader.

What does this look like? If you find that your character isn’t in some way dictating the flow of the work, then perhaps some reevaluation should take place. Is the killer after him and his family? Sure. But the killer can’t be the only one driving the story.

Here’s a “for instance.” Let’s say that the killer is doing what he does best: killing. If the killer gets your main to go to point A and then to point B, then to point C and at each point someone dies, eventually the reader will want to know what your main character is going to do about it.

What you can do is have the main switch up his approach at point D. If the killer asks the main to “come alone” at every location, maybe the main decides to bring someone with him at point D knowing that the killer is going to kill the person anyway.

That’s a quick example, but you get the point. The main character can’t be a punching bag for the plot. Readers want to see your main working his way out of situations using whatever cunning you’ve given him.

Here’s the kicker. You can have your main make decisions, but if you have a certain plot thread in mind your main’s decision-making skills might mess up, you can have the decision end in failure. In fact, this can actually aid to the tension you’re trying to create, because no one wants to see a main who’s successful at everything he does, unless that’s the kind of character you’re trying to create, in which case, the threat of failure can always be something to add to your technique in your plot design.

Now if you have the main’s decision fail for the purpose of your plot thread, this allows your main not to be a plot punching bag, and you’re still able to keep your plot line.

I hope this helps.

What are your thoughts?

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