Last week, I talked about the character worksheet I created based on reading Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict by Cheryl St. John. I focused on the motivation part of the worksheet, but I didn’t forget the other, equally important, aspects to creating an amazing character. Most people naturally create strengths and weaknesses for their characters, but I loved the idea of asking yourself how can someone exploit your characters’ weaknesses.
Jill can make any two people fall in love, but once it’s done, it can’t be undone. She tries to always make sure the two people should be together before she performs her spell, because she doesn’t want to force two people together who shouldn’t be.
How can this be exploited?
Barney uncovers Jill’s gift, as well as, her weakness. He tricks her into believing he is meant to be with the woman he loves. Later on, Jill realizes she has made a mistake and must do anything she can to undo it.
That’s a great idea for a story, but how can we take it further?
Jill discovers the woman she has forced to love Barney was actually in love with her own brother.
Ouch. But can we further the conflict?
We learn this isn’t the first time Jill has made this mistake. She actually destroyed her brother’s first love the exact same way.
So now, we have someone who has exploited Jill’s gift for his own uses (Barney), and we have her “weakness” her inability to undo the spell create a huge conflict. BUT we also have the internal conflict, that Jill has betrayed her brother again. Her guilt (another weakness) drives her to go on a dangerous quest to undo her mistake.
I recently finished a book where one of the main characters is a really honorable soul. As a result, he makes a decision for his kingdom that ultimately may be the wrong one logically, but not morally. Later, he is betrayed by someone who feels the main character has made the wrong decision for the kingdom, however, the main character is completely shocked by the betrayal, because he expects others to have the same moral code. In some ways, his “weaknesses” don’t seem like weaknesses, but given the situation, they are. People are able to use them to manipulate him, and that makes them weaknesses.
So when you are writing your own story, keep in mind not just who your character is, but how others can use your characters weaknesses to their own advantage.