Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Storyteller’s Rulebook: Begin by Showing Your Hero Losing Because of His or Her Flaw
The hero will still not realize he or she has this flaw, and the reader may not realize it as well, but for both the hero and the reader, when the big flaw is finally confronted at around the ¾ point of the story, the fact that this first loss also traces back to this flaw will resonate. Eventually, we want your hero to realize that he or she must overcome this flaw in order to defeat the antagonist and/or win over another character.
Don’t begin by highlighting the wrong flaw, because that can get you on the wrong track. In one book I read for my notes service, the hero lost the competition in the first scene because he was distracted by a woman, conditioning us to think that this will be a problem throughout the book. But this didn’t turn out to be the hero’s flaw. His flaw was that he was too contemptuous and snobby. If he had lost the match because he had too little respect for his opponent, that would have set up the rest of the story better.
Let’s go back to Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy begins by trying to replace a religious idol with a bag of sand, because he doesn’t see any difference, but the altar can tell the difference, and it triggers all sorts of booby traps that delay him long enough for Belloq to steal the idol. It’s not obvious to us or him at the time that this speaks to his overall flaw, his lack of respect for spirituality, but it subconsciously sets us up for the for the moment when he overcomes his big flaw to “win” at the end (simply by closing his eyes out of reverence.)