Changing Ordinary People into Heroes!

In last week’s blog, I discussed fiction novel character development techniques. I ended the blog by stating, “Make your characters real and believable by first making them real to you.”

An evolving fiction plot is not very interesting unless there is conflict and some sort of change in your protagonist by the end of the story. It could be the resolution of a world-changing event in a thriller, finding the killer in a murder mystery, or some major change in your main character’s world or their specific world view that makes the story interesting.

The problem arises when an author attempts to make a character believable by making an ordinary character do extraordinary (heroic) things. How does the writer make such fiction believable?

The main character in my most recent novel is simply a guy with a troubled past trying to do the right thing. The problem is the bad guys keep getting in the way of my protagonist’s normal life. My protagonist has two choices: ignore a world-changing event and hide his head in the sand, or step up to right the wrongs.

My task as a writer is to take this character who craves a normal existence and place him in situations that challenge his entire idea of what a normal life should be and force him to make choices he’d rather not make. My protagonist is a successful pharmacist who owns a very specialized pharmacy practice; and, in the last two novels, he’s turned his back on his everyday world to fight villains and avert sinister events that could have global consequences.

How does a writer make that monumental leap, and successfully take the reader along, in a journey to evolve this everyday guy into a hero, and still make it believable?

The answer lies in how the first act of the novel is handled—how one builds a character’s world in the first 25% of the novel by drizzling in enough history about a protagonist’s life so that an advanced or second level of background on this character is achieved. This is how a normal character’s heroics come off as believable.

In last week’s blog, I stated that I develop characters by using a 3P Model: building on the physical aspects of a character, and including some important psychological aspects and specific philosophies of the character.

Regarding advanced character development, the writer must focus on specific traits and skills that the character might possess, but that aren’t often visible, to meet the challenges that the writer presents for that character.

These traits and skills might include:

  • Specific past traumas (both physical and psychological) that create specialized motivations to act out of the ordinary in certain situations. For instance, an adult abused as a child will react differently to seeing a child being yanked roughly by the arm than a person who grew up in a loving, caring family.
  • If your character has hidden skills developed in a previous job or an earlier environment, those skills are never forgotten or lost and can re-emerge as necessary when the character is confronted with a life-threatening event.
  • Hidden secrets can fester over time and force a character to react differently to tragic events. Creating an abnormal past for your protagonist allows secrets that should remain hidden to evolve into heroic actions when a character is confronted with saving his or her own life, or the life of a loved one.
  • Specific, deep-seated feelings can often explain why an outwardly normal person might act in an extraordinary way regarding a tragic event.

I delight in writing fiction and in creating situations for my protagonist that goes beyond the limits of his everyday world and forces him to act in extraordinary ways. To do that in a believable fashion, I must first load the character’s background with secret histories, hidden skills and past experiences that the everyday person has never been exposed to.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A Jon Masters Novel, About James J. Murray, About Writing, Accuracy in Editing, Accuracy in Writing, Achieving Writing Perfection, All About Writing, Better Fiction Writing, Better Fictional Character Development, Blog Writers, Blogging, Character development, Character Development Techniques, Character Driven Writing, Characteristics of a Fictional Character, Creating Interesting Fiction Characters, Creating Unique and Interesting Character Flaws, Designing Murder Plots, Developing a Writing Career, Developing Better Writing Skills, Developing Effective and Compelling Fictional Heroes, Developing Story Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Developing Writing Skills, Fiction Based on Facts, Fiction Based on Real Life, Fiction Writing - A Believable Lie, Fictional Character Development, Growing As A Writer, Ideas for Creating Permanent Change, James J. Murray Blog, Learning the Art of Writing, Life Skills, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, Pharmacists as Protagonists, Proper Use of the Written Word, Protagonist Development, Published Novel by James J Murray, Publishing A Novel, Steps to Developing Great Fictional Characters, Story Development, The Art of Storytelling, The Art of Writing, The Writings of James J. Murray, Writing Skills, Writing Techniques and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Changing Ordinary People into Heroes!

  1. Jim Burk says:

    We will be watching for the
    development of John Masters.

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