by Jill Williamson
You can use this in your writing. You should.
Think about your main character's story goal. What does he have to do in the book to "save the day?" Now ask yourself, "Is he the right man for the job?"
It's not all that shocking to have a handsome, strong guy go on a quest. But to have a skinny kid ... or a kid who pigeon toed and legally blind ... or a girl who has triplet toddler siblings to care for ... These types of things make the story much more interesting.
But how do you know which interesting mix is the best one? How do you decide which person gets the starring role?
Ask yourself why each character can't fulfill the story goal.
For example, in the movie Sky High, Will Stronghold can't save the day because he hasn't gotten his powers yet. That makes him interesting. The movie wouldn't have worked as well if he was already super strong and could fly.
In The Hunger Games, Peeta can't kill people. He's a baker. He likes to frost cupcakes. That makes us root for him all the more. That makes him interesting.
In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzy can't marry Mr. Darcy. In fact, she declares that Mr. Darcy is the last man in the world she could ever be prevailed upon to marry because of his arrogance and conceit, and his selfish disdain for the feelings of others. It wouldn't have been much of a story if Mr. Darcy had been agreeable from page one, now would it?
The reason why your character is all wrong often is what makes him just right. Brainstorm contrasting traits like the weak superhero or the killer who is a baker. Is there an issue or trait with your character that will clash with the story goal? Think about physical, mental, or psychological issues. How about religious conflicts? Professional ones?
Sometimes it can help to get a sheet of paper out and brainstorm. Put the role that needs to be cast in the story in the center of the paper, then brainstorm different types of people who might audition for the part. Hire the one that you find to be the best fit.
Can you think of an example of a character who seems all wrong for the role he must fill, but that's what makes him so perfect for it? Share in the comments.