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Story check (Feeling what the protagonist feels)

From: Writing Fundamentals: The Craft of Story

Video: Story check (Feeling what the protagonist feels)

Now for a handy list of questions to make sure that your reader is able to feel what your protagonist is feeling. First, is the reader aware of your protagonist's specific expectations so we can tell whether they are being met or not? This is something that writers very often forget to tell us, why? They assume that the reader knows what the protagonist expects, or just as common, they assume that a general answer will suffice. James going to a party and Jane expects to have a good time, but that's a general and a given.

Story check (Feeling what the protagonist feels)

Now for a handy list of questions to make sure that your reader is able to feel what your protagonist is feeling. First, is the reader aware of your protagonist's specific expectations so we can tell whether they are being met or not? This is something that writers very often forget to tell us, why? They assume that the reader knows what the protagonist expects, or just as common, they assume that a general answer will suffice. James going to a party and Jane expects to have a good time, but that's a general and a given.

Who wouldn't want to have a good time? The real question is what specifically would have to happen at the party in order for Jane to have that good time? Second, does everything that happens affect your protagonist emotionally in the moment? This doesn't mean that the protagonist has to get all emotional and weep or laugh or go nuts and slug someone. It means that the reader must know what emotion the protagonist is feeling, especially when that emotion is at odds with what he is saying.

Third, does your protagonist react to everything that happens? Sometimes this is a physical reaction. Sometimes it's what the protagonist thinks or feels. Remember, a story isn't about what happens on the surface, it's about how what happens affects your protagonist. Fourth, can the reader see the causal link between what happened and why your protagonist reacted the way she did? This comes back to making sure that the reader knows what the protagonist's expectations were.

If they know what she expected, chances are they will understand why she's reacting the way she does. Not only that, but they will be able to anticipate what she might do as a result. Finally, if you're writing in the first person, does everything reflect to protagonist's point of view? Remember, in a first-person account, nothing is ever neutral, even for a moment. This means the narrator will never tell us about anything that doesn't affect him in some way.

Think of the narrator as a narcissist, but in a good way. Everything in the story relates to him, which is why he's telling us about it in the first place. Now that you know how to make sure the reader can feel what you're protagonist feels, let's practice doing it. Open the example from your exercise files. Can you improve this very rough draft by showing us how the protagonist is reacting to what's happening?

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This video is part of

Image for Writing Fundamentals: The Craft of Story
Writing Fundamentals: The Craft of Story

39 video lessons · 18977 viewers

Lisa Cron
Author

 
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  1. 2m 40s
    1. Welcome
      1m 45s
    2. How to use this course
      55s
  2. 9m 38s
    1. Explanation (What is a story?)
      3m 34s
    2. Example (What is a story?)
      4m 14s
    3. Story check (What is a story?)
      1m 50s
  3. 8m 46s
    1. Explanation (Hooking your reader)
      3m 51s
    2. Example (Hooking your reader)
      3m 19s
    3. Story check (Hooking your reader)
      1m 36s
  4. 8m 51s
    1. Explanation (All stories make a point)
      2m 56s
    2. Example (All stories make a point)
      3m 54s
    3. Story check (All stories make a point)
      2m 1s
  5. 9m 33s
    1. Explanation (Feeling what the protagonist feels)
      3m 43s
    2. Example (Feeling what the protagonist feels)
      3m 19s
    3. Story check (Feeling what the protagonist feels)
      2m 31s
  6. 7m 6s
    1. Explanation (All protagonists have a goal)
      2m 36s
    2. Example (All protagonists have a goal)
      3m 9s
    3. Story check (All protagonists have a goal)
      1m 21s
  7. 7m 37s
    1. Explanation (Uncovering your protagonist's inner issue)
      2m 53s
    2. Example (Uncovering your protagonist's inner issue)
      2m 27s
    3. Story check (Uncovering your protagonist's inner issue)
      2m 17s
  8. 9m 58s
    1. Explanation (Being specific rather than vague)
      4m 51s
    2. Example (Being specific rather than vague)
      3m 33s
    3. Story check (Being specific rather than vague)
      1m 34s
  9. 9m 3s
    1. Explanation (Suspense and conflict)
      3m 29s
    2. Example (Suspense and conflict)
      4m 6s
    3. Story check (Suspense and conflict)
      1m 28s
  10. 10m 35s
    1. Explanation (Cause and effect)
      4m 0s
    2. Example (Cause and effect)
      4m 16s
    3. Story check (Cause and effect)
      2m 19s
  11. 11m 50s
    1. Explanation (What can go wrong, must)
      4m 42s
    2. Example (What can go wrong, must)
      5m 0s
    3. Story check (What can go wrong, must)
      2m 8s
  12. 10m 59s
    1. Explanation (Setups, payoffs, and the clues in between)
      4m 19s
    2. Example (Setups, payoffs, and the clues in between)
      5m 6s
    3. Story check (Setups, payoffs, and the clues in between)
      1m 34s
  13. 11m 7s
    1. Explanation (Flashbacks, subplots, and foreshadowing)
      4m 56s
    2. Example (Flashbacks, subplots, and foreshadowing)
      4m 20s
    3. Story check (Flashbacks, subplots, and foreshadowing)
      1m 51s
  14. 1m 49s
    1. Next steps
      1m 49s

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