I missed the first half of romance writer Sally Kilpatrick's workshop, because I was just a little bit late getting to the 2020 Writers' Workshop. And that was because I had spent a good portion of my morning driving aimlessly through the foreign country known as Dunwoody, Georgia, because I was in the wrong exit lane which put me in the wrong right lane and none of those streets I found myself on were taking me where I needed to be. Sorry, Dunwoody, no insult intended ... I was just a stranger in a strange land ... but eventually I did make it to my destination.
All the folks leading these workshops were terrific. Mrs. Kilpatrick was no exception.
The workshops were informal and relaxed, so slipping in a little late didn't seem to be too disruptive. I found a seat, got settled, and began those mental gymnastics you have to go through at those times when you walk up to a conversation already in progress.
What was she saying ... characters ... conflict ... what does your character want or need? ... and the coolest questions I think I'd ever heard asked ...
How could you make a scene/situation worse for the main character?
What is the worst way possible to give your character what he/she wants?
Oh! I was in heaven! And no longer feeling like a lonely stranger in a foreign land ... I had found my people! People who spoke my language!
And people who could enlighten me ...
Did you know that falling in love is not the main goal of a romance story?
Did you know that some of the most likeable characters are the flawed ones, with internal wounds and false beliefs and maybe even a few dark secrets?
Did you know that you can have a terribly flawed main character, as long as you can show them in some situation doing something that is likeable, and will identify them as the hero of the story. That made me think of Han Solo in that first Star Wars movie when he ran off like a chicken instead of staying to help fight with the rebel forces, but later, in the darkest part of the battle when all hope feels lost, he comes flying back into the fray to help. A flawed hero.
So give your main character some internal setbacks and flaws they will need to overcome. Give them a goal, a want or a need they are trying to reach or fill. Then throw the book at them! Give them external obstacles to overcome in order to meet their goals. Use their own internal flaws to create obstacles. Especially if that character has a strong arc, make those situations and obstacles just as hard and impossib ... wait a minute!
What, pray tell, is an arc?
But I didn't catch it in time to ask a question. The lecture was moving on and I could only assume that term was something that was covered before I had arrived. I'd just have to investigate that later on my own ...