writing the reluctant hero

writing the reluctant hero

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”
– Ernest Hemingway

No one likes change. The unknown is scary.

The end of Act One involves our protagonist making a decision she can’t go back on. There is often reluctance that precedes this decision as she weighs her options. Even if the reluctance lasts but a moment, it’s an important beat in any story. Be curious about this reluctance, as it will keep you connected to the tension. For example: a character might decide to reveal a secret to another character. Just because she wants to share her secret doesn’t mean she feels no reluctance in sharing it. This is an irreversible decision. What if the other character betrays her, judges her, or rejects her? The tension, the interplay between “what if I do, and what if I don’t?” will lead to a more specific relationship to the end of the Act One decision.

Our hero is always making decisions, always taking action, but the end of Act One has a special meaning. There’s a sense that this decision will irrevocably change things, that the hero is leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar. This decision could be anything: going on a first date, accepting the promotion, moving to Australia, sleeping with someone, taking a stand, voicing a concern, cleaning the garage—anything at all! It’s not so much the action taken, but rather the meaning attached to this action.

Remember, story accumulates meaning as it progresses. Our hero attaches specific meaning to each decision. Reluctance helps the reader understand specifically what our hero is struggling with. By inquiring into the reluctance, you may discover a moment that makes your story more dynamic and specific.

Share your thoughts with me on this.


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