Monday, April 2, 2012

What lie does your character believe?

I'm amazed by the places I find inspiration for my characters.

My husband and I are currently reading the book Overcoming Overload by Steve and Mary Farrar. The book is about, as you might assume, keeping your life from becoming overloaded with too many commitments and too much stuff.



In the first chapter of this book, the authors suggest that when we find ourselves constantly stressed out by the hectic pace of life, it's because we've bought into one of the following lies:

I can have it all.

I can do it all.

I deserve it all.

My daughter is currently obsessed with Beauty and the Beast. (This connects to what I just said, I promise!)

McKenna is a big fan of all things Princess. Here she is dressed as Cinderella, playing with the step-mother and and step-sister.


We have the soundtrack (an ancient relic from when I was a little girl obsessed with Beauty and the Beast) and McKenna wants to listen to it over and over. We listen to it so much these days that I usually just tune it out, but something caught my attention the other day. In the opening of the story, when Gaston says to LeFou that he intends to marry Belle, that she's the most beautiful girl in town, he adds on: "That makes her the best! And don't I deserve the best?"

Gaston goes through the story believing he deserves it all. He deserves the best. It's why he won't accept Belle's no. Because she's the best and he deserves to have her.

I started thinking about the main character in the book I'm writing, who's been raised in a society of selfishness and ambition. Just like Gaston, she believes she deserves it all. And it impacts her decision making process.

What about your main character? Or their best friend? Or the antagonist? What do they believe? How does that lie influence their decisions?

38 comments:

  1. I LOVE this. I'm going to turn this into a little worksheet for me to do on my current characters.

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  2. By the way, Beauty and the Beast is my FAV!!! When I read that line I was totally hearing Gaston!! hahaha!

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    1. Oh, yay! I'm glad it was so helpful, Nicole. And Beauty and the Beast is awesome. Can't beat a princess who reads :)

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    2. Hahaha . . . Me too! I love(d) mimicking Gaston. ^_^

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    3. Beauty and the Beast is my all time favorite fairytale (not to mention Disney princess movie)!

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  3. My next heroine believes she can trust no one. Of course, it gets a bit more complicated than that . . . and her subconscious thinks she can trust the hero because her father said she could, though she doesn't actually realize she's doing that for a good while . . . then she starts to doubt her father, but only after she's thoroughly entangled with the hero . . . yep. Should be fun. =)

    Hero, meanwhile, believes he's responsible for everything. As in, the fate of the country, his family, the heroine . . . everything. Also should be fun. =)

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  4. My main character believes she "deserves it all" but in a slightly different way. She thinks she deserves everything people throw at her- every mean word, dirty look, everything. I don't know if that's what you meant, but oh well :D

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    1. Maddie, what an excellent twist on it! It's amazing how the same lie can take totally different forms in different characters.

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  5. That's definitely on my list of top five problems in my current story - my MC doesn't really believe a lie. I probably should make him feel guilty for his parents' death, or something, but it just doesn't fit him. Problem.

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    1. Fortunately, that can be a pretty easy problem to fix. And a lot of times the lie is there, it just needs to be brought out a bit more.

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    2. Allison, I can't tell you how many times I've discovered that problem in my books, especially with my MMCs. I don't think it's an uncommon problem, and while I usually have to do some "character soul-searching," I can usually come up with something. (By "character soul-searching," I mean getting inside their head and exploring. What was their past like? How did it affect them? Who were their best friends? Why don't they have those best friends anymore? Or, if they do, what has kept them together so long? Believe it or not, these questions are they kind of questions that will help you figure out what he believes. His "worldview.")

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  6. Wow, I love this post!

    My FMC Ren believes that her self-worth is determined by the way other people think of her. This is why she is so devastated when her hero accuses her falsely of treason.

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    1. Good one, Ellyn! That's a lie I've struggled with in my own life, which would really help me connect with Ren!

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    2. I've that problem, too! That when other people aren't pleased with me, it determines my worth. Well, it doesn't. Cool character!

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    3. Thank you! I wanted to connect more with YA girls, and since that's a problem I have myself, I thought it would be a good theme. It took me a looooong time to discover it though. Now I just have to communicate it into the story correctly.

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  7. "I can do it all." is a lie I often believe. The sooner I realize I'm not superwoman, the better off I'll be.

    Now the MC in the story I'm planning, the lie he believes is that he has to lose himself while caring for his sisters-that all his identity can be is caring for them. And while caring for them is a good goal, he'ill need to learn as the story continues that there are times that he has to let go, and make them fend for themselves a bit

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    1. "the sooner I realise I'm not superwoman, the better off I'll be" -- LOVE THAT!! It's my new motto ;)

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  8. My MMC believes that if he gets attached to anyone, he'll have to stop running (okay, that part is true), and he'll have to face his fears. (Yes, this is all true.) The LIE he believes is that if he faces his fears, he is destined to become the person he hates most (the person he's running from).

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  9. Yup, attached to a lie! And then she'll have to choose whether to try another way, or stick with what's NOT working.

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  10. In the beginning of my story, my character deals with lies about love. She feels like no one can love her. If God loved her, he would have made her mom love her too. She feels like if her own mom couldn't love her no one could. Until she sees real love from her foster/adopt parents.
    Alyson

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  11. My MMC in progress is sort of cocky; (but not in an over-D'Artagnan way) he believes he can do it all. This gets in the way a lot though, because he believes he can rescue the FMC "damsel in distress" , only she firmly believes she needs no one. Growing up in a family that had everything, and thought they deserved it all, and being the only one who abandoned that lie, she wants no help, whether she needs it or not.

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  12. Hmnn... in my finished novel, my MC probably believes she can't have, do or deserve it all. In my current WIP, my MC probably believes she can do it all.

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  13. Such a good question! :) My FMC believes she can trust no one (especially those who have let her down in the past) and my MMC believes he must have a certain job to finally be somebody and be able to provide for his family. :)

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  14. Awesome post! There is genius in Disney fairy tales. :) My niece is also obsessed with everything disney princesses. From Cinderella, to Belle, to Rapunzel she knows their songs, even what their different accessories look like! ;) I currently have every single song from the movie "Tangled" memorized because of her.

    A lie my FMC believes is she won't ever be good enough. Good enough to have a happy life, good enough to be loved, good enough to get the things she desperately wants.

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    1. Lydia Grace HartApril 2, 2012 at 5:30 PM

      Confession: I'm fourteen and I have the Tangled soundtrack on my mp3 player......... and I have the lyrics memorized, all with no little sister to lay the blame on. Oops :P

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    2. Haha . . . don't worry, Lydia. I watched it with my friend and five guys, aged 18-21, and the guys got more into it than we were. Not only that, but it was my oldest brother, Ben, who wanted to see it . . . TWICE! :D

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    3. My sisters saw it in theaters with their friends, and apparently the large, middle-aged man behind them was sobbing partway through :) I still feel like a nerd, but thanks for the boost :P

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    4. Haha, Lydia...I guess it's confession time for me too... I DO listen to Tangled music even when she isn't around. It's just so addicting! ;) My niece may have introduced me to the soundtrack, but I listen to it all on my own. :P

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    5. Lydia Grace HartApril 3, 2012 at 9:51 PM

      Thanks for makin' me feel better teehee. It IS addictive!

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  15. My younger sister used to be obsessed with princesses when she was little. I think I watched Cinderella enough times to memorize it! :)

    My MC struggles with self-injury, and the lie she's believing is that cutting herself will take the pain of her father leaving, which she believes to be her fault.

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    1. That is sooo sad.... (Not your younger sister. ;-)) Does anyone else realize that writers in general are the cruelest people to their characters? I mean, if my characters met me as their writer, they would probably hate me... A lot.

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  16. Hmmm... I don't think I ever gave much thought to this subject. Another thing to write down.

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  17. I think my characters believe the lie that they are ordinary. I like to put them into extraordinary situations and in the process help them realize that they are capable of more then they realize. I want it to be a theme in my books- it's an issue I've had myself for a long time, this whole ordinary thing. :P

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    1. Same here :) I think the "I'm ordinary" lie is done extremely well in Harry Potter.

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  18. "I can do it all" is definitely the lie my main character believes. She basically believes she can save the world but has to come to realize she needs help to do what she needs to. Great post, I love Belle:)

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  19. Hmmm...I'm not quite sure what lie my MC believes. She may believe more than one. The one I can pin down right now is the lie "I cannot fail. If I fail or do anything imperfectly, no one will love me" - a lie I sometimes find myself struggling with. My villain acts villainous partly because she believes two lies: "I deserve it all" and hidden way down in her heart "No one loves me".

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  20. My MC definitely believes she *doesn't* deserve anything given to her... It's definitely a huge plot point. And another character is a thief, but continuously manages to delude himself into thinking he isn't wrong in what he's doing. Yeah... I'm definitely gonna work with my other characters, see what they believe. It's a very interesting question. :-)

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  21. My MC believes that she has to save the world and it is her fault things are going so bad. She blames herself for her fathers death. My MMC believes that his father would have done better in his situation and he feels like he is failing him. Another important girl in my story thinks that she has to act mean and aloof so no one can make fun of her.
    Thanks for all the advice. It really helped and made me think my characters through. I always get the best advice on here!

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