• strict warning: Declaration of FeedsImporter::copy() should be compatible with FeedsConfigurable::copy(FeedsConfigurable $configurable) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/includes/FeedsImporter.inc on line 94.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsNodeProcessor.inc on line 319.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsFeedNodeProcessor::setTargetElement() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::setTargetElement(&$target_item, $target_element, $value) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsFeedNodeProcessor.inc on line 227.
  • strict warning: Declaration of FeedsUserProcessor::map() should be compatible with FeedsProcessor::map($source_item, $target_item = NULL) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/feeds/plugins/FeedsUserProcessor.inc on line 195.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • warning: preg_replace(): Compilation failed: disallowed Unicode code point (>= 0xd800 && <= 0xdfff) at offset 1809 in /home/writezil/public_html/modules/search/search.module on line 334.
  • You must include at least one positive keyword with 3 characters or more.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display.inc on line 1877.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_display_block::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin_display::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_display_block.inc on line 193.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_field_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_field.inc on line 641.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_sort_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_sort.inc on line 82.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 585.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 609.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter_boolean_operator::value_validate() should be compatible with views_handler_filter::value_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter_boolean_operator.inc on line 128.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_style_default::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_style_default.inc on line 25.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_validate() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_validate(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_plugin_row::options_submit() should be compatible with views_plugin::options_submit(&$form, &$form_state) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/plugins/views_plugin_row.inc on line 135.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of content_handler_field::options() should be compatible with views_object::options() in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/cck/includes/views/handlers/content_handler_field.inc on line 208.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 843.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument::init() should be compatible with views_handler::init(&$view, $options) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 745.
  • strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_argument_broken::ui_name() should be compatible with views_handler::ui_name($short = false) in /home/writezil/public_html/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_argument.inc on line 770.

High Drama and Heroism

https://i1.wp.com/writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Mass-1024... 300w, https://i1.wp.com/writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Mass-1024... 768w, https://i1.wp.com/writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Mass-1024... 800w, https://i1.wp.com/writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Mass-1024... 587w, https://i1.wp.com/writerunboxed.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Mass-1024... 1024w" sizes="(max-width: 525px) 100vw, 525px" data-recalc-dims="1" />I’m no hero.  Not the kind who faces physical danger, anyway.  I don’t risk my life on a regular basis, unless you consider flying across the country in a commercial jetliner, seated in Business First, to be risking one’s life.  (If you do, hey.  I’m doing just that as I type this post.)
No, I’m no hero.  Under the right circumstances, I might be.  I like to think that I would.  We all like to imagine that we’d respond coolly in a crisis, put others ahead of ourselves, do the right thing and face danger without flinching.  Same with moral peril.  We’d like to speak truth, stand up, inspire others, take action when others shrink back.
Mostly we’re not called upon to do that.  Heroism falls to others.  Still, we’d like to be ready.  We are heroes inside.  We celebrate and thank those who’ve sacrificed and fought, either with weapons or with moral courage.  We hold them in the highest regard.  We organize parades, erect monuments, lay wreaths, salute, hashtag, retweet, and wipe away tears.
We need heroes, not to save us but to lift us.  To inspire.  To challenge and remind us to be our best selves.  To be brave.  That is why heroes endure in literature.  I don’t mean only gumshoes, sheriffs, military men and women, superheroes.  There was a thousand ways to face fear, and fears to face.
Fear is the key.  Facing it is what makes a hero or heroine.  That means that heroism can inspire us in any novel.  In yours.  The one you’re writing right now.  Does that sound impossible?  Does it sound over the top, pulp, unsuited to your story?  If so, I understand but let me ask you this: Don’t you think that right now the world needs more heroines and heroes?
Who is going to inspire the courage—the courage that we all want and need—if you do not?  Writing fiction is a realm in which showing courage does not fall to others.  It falls to you.
ENGINEERING HEROISM STARTS WITH SHAME
Let’s look at some ways to engineer heroism.  Recently I asked a workshop full of writers what their protagonists are most afraid of.  The answers fell into three categories: 1) Hurting or betraying loved ones.  2) Being emotionally hurt or betrayed oneself.  3) Doing the wrong thing, giving in, going to the dark side.
Interestingly, common fears that you might expect to arise quickly didn’t, such as physical injury, blindness, dying.  Perhaps those are hard to relate to?  Regardless, it is emotional peril that stirs the greatest fear.  Disappointing others.  Disappointing self.  Giving in, going down, selling out.  Failing.
Those fears are rooted in a powerful, primary emotion: experiencing shame.  Thus, building heroism starts with creating fear, and creating fear starts with shame.  So, considering your WIP and its world, what would most shame your protagonist?  What would be the worst possible humiliation?  Especially self-inflicted?
More: Whom does your protagonist least want to disappoint?  Who holds your protagonist in high regard?  Who depends upon him or her?  For whom must your protagonist be there, strong, supporting, dependable, always doing right?  You can also give your protagonists boosters and believers—perhaps one in particular—who have faith in him or her.  Strengthen those bonds.  Express that admiration or hero worship.  Have your protagonist make a promise, one important to keep.  You can also give your protagonist a code, principle, or rule to live by to which he or she steadfastly adheres.
No doubt you see what to do with those elements.  Break the bond.  Let that person down.  Make your protagonist do—once, when it counts—what is low, contemptible, cowardly, false, avoidant, weak or selfish.  In what way can your protagonist betray another?  How can she or he fail to uphold the all-important code, principle or rule?  How can your protagonist let down not only others but, worse, herself or himself?
In other words, establish what constitutes shame for your protagonist.  Then, cross that boundary.  When your protagonist goes down, we will know fear.  We will understand that anyone—you or I—can succumb.  We can also work our way back to the right side, of course, and it is that return to goodness, grace, honesty, integrity, right and self-sacrifice that stirs us, your readers, to courage.
Put simply, when your protagonist overcomes the worst possible shame then we know that we can all be heroic.
THE UTILITY OF VILLAINS, DILEMMAS AND PLIGHTS
BTW, to engineer situations in which your protagonists can enact heroism, consider creating a villain.  Now, antagonists are nice to have around.  They work against your protagonists and do ill, yet generally speaking we understand antagonists.  Villains, by contrast, defy understanding.  We are (for now) unable to explain their malign actions.  Unexplained ill leaves us with only one word to describe it: evil.  You can invoke a sense of evil as villains tempt, taunt, torment and box your protagonist into dilemmas or plights.
(To review, a dilemma is a terrible choice.  A plight makes that worse by adding an unavoidable cost: Do what is right and I will take away something precious to you; do as I bid and you will gain what you most desire.  To trap your protagonist into a dilemma or plight, you must first give a villain absolute authority.  Villains rule—if only the situation.  Villains are able to impose conditions, countdowns and deadlines to increase your protagonist’s peril.)
MAKING IT HURT
A different kind of shame occurs when a protagonist is emotionally hurt.  To heighten that, look to your protagonist’s back story to discover the way in which your protagonist is most vulnerable.  What shamed him or her in childhood?  What memento, token, person, place or situation renews that shame?  How has your protagonist resolved, I will not let that happen again!  What defenses are in place?  How can the present-day plot problem put your protagonist in an analogous situation?  It’s happening all over again!
You know what to do with that.  Hurt your protagonist.  Later, she or he will overcome it, which takes courage.  It is noble to rise above, forgive, move on.
GIVING IN TO THE DARK SIDE
Succumbing to temptation or going to the dark side is the most credible when it is rooted in your protagonist’s envy.  What do others have that your protagonist wants?  What grinds that desire into your protagonist’s eyeballs, injects it under your protagonist’s skin?  Giving in to envy is the greatest defeat, especially when it happens in front of others.  Sinning in private bears little cost.  Succumbing to envy in a visible public way—think getting caught—will cause readers to squirm.  We can all imagine ourselves giving in to temptation and making mistakes because, frankly, we all are prone to envy.
LEADING US INTO THE LIGHT
What I’m talking about today may feel uncomfortable.  You may think that your protagonist isn’t that kind of hero.  I say, why not?  We love heroes and heroines in classic novels.  We’re inspired when other authors create them.  What prevents you from doing that?  Nothing.  Doing so can increase your story’s drama, maybe even create high drama.  Nothing wrong with that, either.
I believe that there is a hero or heroine in your WIP.  There can be, anyway, if allow it and own it.  You have the means.  You have a story.  Your story raises fear.  And where there is fear there can be heroines and heroes.
And the good thing about creating them–?  No special courage is required.  All you need is the intention to lift us up.
How can you create high drama in your WIP?  How might you make your protagonist not just a protagonist, but a heroine or hero?

Wish you could buy this author a cup of joe?

Now, thanks to tinyCoffee and PayPal, you can!

About Donald MaassDonald Maass is president of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. He has written several highly acclaimed craft books for novelists including The Breakout Novelist, The Fire in Fiction, Writing the Breakout Novel and The Career Novelist.Web | Twitter | Facebook | More Posts

"Writing is learning to say nothing, more cleverly every day. "
William Allingham

Random picks

  • `The Antioch Review's most recent issue, "Our Doppelganger Moment," starts what the editors have called their "doppelganger phase." The magazine now has an electronic version available through JSTOR. Unlike some magazines that print two different versions, these will be the same, just available in two different formats. "We are now 'double walkers,'" says Editor Robert S. Fogarty. "It will be
  • RtP: Book contracts should be embarked upon like marriages. As Jane Austen shows us, every woman is best served in marriage by saying no at the beginning. The men as, the women say no, the men have to try again with better offers; all end up happy. And everyone knows Jane Austen would serve for almost anything.
  • Coming to be an effective web-writer/webmaster today is much different than the conventional world of writing print. To make money online as an author calls for independence, not employment. Gone are the days of query letters and contending for jobs. It’s free-for-all! Many web writers start by freelancing as independent professionals on content websites, many of which have essentially no entry requirements. There are 2 primary types of content websites, also referred to as content mills, which offer a platform for authors to submit articles and earn money: ghostwriting sites, and...
  • One common element whenever human beings gather is the need to talk and share experiences. Often that need turns into something a little more fun, a little more dangerous -- gossip. Gossip is often fun but it can also be dangerous because it spreads quickly (because it is fun) and often distorts or even
  • A person can make earn cash writing articles for money? Did you know there is the potential to make more by using an online niche website? You will be able to expand your credibility and web presence by creating your own site.

Recommended sites

Most recent titles

Fast fact about writing

By definition, the modern practice of history begins with written records; evidence of human culture without writing is the realm of prehistory.