It’s Election Day in the U.S., which you surely know unless you’re living under a sound-proof stone that hasn’t been picked up and thrown at someone. Hard to believe that a few short years ago many of us rarely expressed controversial opinions, choosing to be ‘polite’ rather than overtly ‘political,’ yet here we are.
So let’s talk broadly about tipping points for a minute, and tune in to story.
Consider your protagonist’s world view at the start of your tale:
- What won’t she do?
- What won’t she say?
- Whom would she never betray?
- What or whom does she trust implicitly?
- What or whom would she give up to achieve her greatest desire?
- For whom or what would she make significant sacrifices, even lay down her life?
Now think through what it would take, in each instance, for her to change her mind; to be pushed and shoved out of her comfort zone; to be rattled by a proverbial stone against her skull, or even to pick one up herself.
Don’t tell me she would never allow herself to be tipped, because I do not believe it, and if you do, then you need to dig harder, my friend. Identify the wildcard in her life, and if it doesn’t exist, then build it.
Need help brainstorming? Consider the effect of the following:
Threats to her future
Threats to those she loves
Threats to things she loves
Don’t make her flip of nature too easy, either, or it will read false.
- How can these things come from someone or something she trusts or trusted?
- How will she realize she has been fooled or manipulated, or unwittingly acted against her own best interests?
- How will she receive this message, and how hard will she rebel against believing it?
- For how many minutes, days, or years will she plug her ears, shut her eyes, turn her back?
- What can’t she ignore?
- What has she already compromised or sacrificed?
- Whom has she already lost?
- How has she lied to herself?
- How many voices will she dismiss as crazy before something finally filters past, nudges her conscience, makes her wonder?
- What will she do with that blast of enlightenment once she sees the truth?
- How can that redirected energy fuel her arc?
- What will she lose by accepting the truth?
- What will she gain?
- How will reaching a tipping point change her, for forever?
- Will this tipping point be only the first in a series?
- What comes next?
- How will these things propel her toward The End?
- Will she reach a happy ending, and be satisfied?
- If she fails, what does that mean for her future? How does that, too, become a tipping point, support a new goal, push her on and on?
Because if I’ve learned nothing over the last few years, it’s that nothing is sacred. Nothing is solid. Nothing is forever. Nothing can be taken for granted. And that doing nothing and expecting change is not only tantamount to madness but becomes impossible once that tipping point is reached.
Just as we writers must press on and pursue–must write on, and persevere–so must our protagonists if they are to convey a tale that is rich and bold and true. You need look no further than the front page of today’s newspaper to see why that will be required to gain and keep the attention of your readership.
Have a way of finding your protagonist’s tipping point that you’d like to share? Share away.