Once is not enough – Character Change day 8

So far, we’ve covered our hero’s goal and desire, he’s calculated cost verses reward and he’s made his attempt to achieve his goal. And… he failed.

So, in the example of Dragon Slayer the Third, what makes him go back again to try to win true love? Let’s say he’s realized he needs an heir to the throne or when he dies his evil cousin becomes King. DS the Third has given his life for his kingdom and it’s people. He doesn’t want them subject to evil King cousin.

He wants an heir. However, he doesn’t want a marriage of convenience. Ah, now we’ve upped the stakes. If he wanted just an heir, he’d take any of the lovely damsel’s prostrating themselves before him.

DS the Third wants real love, a child of love who will grow in love. 

His first attempt was frivolous and failed. Now, he regroups and makes a second attempt. In the mean time, he meets a beautiful, sweet, humble young woman. His heart is awakened. She agrees to dine with him, but cancels last minute.

With the taste of victory in his mouth, DS throws a Fancy Ball and invites all the single women of his kingdom in order to make a second attempt at true love and for the humble woman his heart desires.

Think about your protagonist in this light. Perhaps you’re well into your story, that’s fine! Now is the time to see if you’ve add or missed some of these elements.

In The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne is on the run, trying to discover who he is. Not only that, he quickly finds out he’s being chased. He picks up a girl Marie to drive him to safety.

We get the feeling Bourne is a loner who doesn’t want to be alone. He pays Marie to drive him to France, but once they are there, she’s free to go. 

I think Marie’s the character here who has a taste of desire. Who is this man? He’s exciting, he’s vulnerable. She’s intrigued as much as she’s afraid. Marie’s second attempt to free herself from him is thwarted when Bourne looks at her right before a car scene and says, “Are you in or are you out.”

Maria has to decide if the cost (her life maybe) is worth the reward (discovering the heart of this man.)

She sets aside her caution and fear to stay with him. We witness her character’s growth and change.

Most of the time, I don’t discover all of these elements until I’m well into the book. But, it’s a great benefit to keep them in mind as you plot and as you write.

Until tomorrow… 

An exercise in Cost and Reward – Character Change

Continuing our discussion on Characterization, cost and reward, motivation and desire, let’s do a little exercise with our current WIPs.

I’m going to work from a single gender view point, but take the liberty to apply to hero heroine, or any POV character. Remember, all point of view characters must have some kind of journey and story arc.

What does your hero want? How is is going to get it? What is it going to cost him? What are the oppositions?

What does he want? I see this answer a lot in the manuscripts I read: Love. He wants to find love.

Well, that’s noble and very Christ like. 

But why? Finding true love is a noble journey, but will not make for a very interesting book. How much does he want true love? Why is true love important.

Let’s say our hero, lets call him, Dragon Slayer the Third, wakes up one morning, sees a beautiful day and says to his Man In Waiting, “Alfred, today I want to find true love.”

Well, off we go. He spies his first Beautiful Damsel. He approaches. “You, there, gorgeous woman so fair. Hark, and come with me. I want to love you and make you my Queen.”

“What? Fergettabout it. You’re too pretty for me.” 

Dragon turns to Alfred, “She turned me down, how rude.”

“My Lord, she must be a twit.”

“Certainly, well, it’s lunch? Shall we dine? And what fun shall I have for tomorrow?” 

Dragon Slayer has no reason to pursue true love the moment he faced his first obstacle. Give him a reason for true love besides, 1, True love is grand or 2. His mother abandoned him as a baby.

What motivates him to go forward? What’s his desire? What will it cost him to pursue true love? Ask questions until you build a world of cost and reward around your protagonist.

In the movie Titanic, Rose wants true love but she also wants freedom from her mother, from societal expectations. When she meets Jack, she discovers the courage to chance her dreams, not her mother’s.

What about Lucy in While You Were Sleeping? She falls in love with Jack, the other brother. But the family she’s fallen in love with wants her to marry Peter. If she confesses her feelings, the cost is almost too great. She’ll lose this wonderful family because she lied. She’ll lose the man she loves.

But she takes a chance and confesses. Her desire to love Jack, but to be true to herself and her father’s memory causes her to do the right thing. To pay the price. 

The reward is Jack. But even if she didn’t get Jack, the reward is she stayed true to her heart.

Take a look at your manuscripts. Can you take it a layer deeper?



Caldron of Cost and Reward – Character Change Day 7

What is it worth? How much are you willing to pay for your freedom? To achieve a goal or dream? To save a loved one? To win love?

Every story we write had an arch, a journey, driven by the protagonist. But what drives the protagonist?

What is he or she after? Why? Is the pay off or reward worth the price he has to pay? In other words, what’s it going to cost?

Let’s look at Jesus for a second. What in heaven’s name would motivate Him to leave the splendor of heaven, take on the form of created man FOREVER, died a brutal, cruel death for our offenses, then sit next to the Father praying for us?

The cost is extreme. Unfathomable. In light of this, what is His reward. What motivated His heart to love like He loved?

Love? Knowing what awaits us in Eternity with the Father. Knowing how horrendous eternal separation will be? Just looking at His sacrifice alone should grip our hearts without letting go.

Take a look at your protagonist. Does the reward justify the cost? Cost and reward has to create true desire.

In Braveheart, William Wallace considers the cost of war and the lives of Scotland’s men worth the reward of freedom. But when he looks deeper in his heart, he’s fighting for justice and to avenge the death of his wife.

A careful line to walk between revenge and avenge. 

We talk a lot about “Why?” here on My Book Therapy. Why does the character want to do this or that. 

In my current work-in-progress, the heroine Jade is estranged from her mother. So much so, she doesn’t even care if her mother attends her wedding. Why? Well, Beryl wasn’t such a great Mama, leaving Jade and her siblings with Granny while she sought her own desires.

But was the cost of not inviting her mother to the most important event in a girl’s life worth any kind of reward? Hmm. It’s okay, but not great. I had to go deeper. Why is Jade so estranged from her mother? Why thirteen years of strain, and antagonism.

I had to go deep into Jade’s heart, pull up the pivotal issue and bring it to the page.

When a character looks inward and asks, “what do I truly desire?” then we see true change.

Yeah, but what about me? Character change Day 6

Yesterday we talked about Character Change – and the point where, after their first attempt and failure, they get a glimpse of what it will cost them to succeed.  Today we’re going to talk about the reward for succeeding. 


Every summer, I take the five week beginner’s Tennis class through our local community center.  Let me say that again.  Every Year I Take the Beginners Tennis Class.


That’s right.  Just the Beginners.  Yes, there’s an intermediate class.  And an advanced level class.  And then people actually PLAY each other.  For points.  And wins. 


But see, progressing would require something, well, that I’ve tried to push out of my brain every since I escaped six years of piano lessons: practice. 


Now the thing is, I do like Tennis.  I like watching it, and I like playing it. I  like hitting the ball so that it bounces inside the line, and then out of reach of my opponent.  Yes, occasionally it happens.  But for the most part, I there I am, the one hitting air as the ball flies past me. 


It’s gonna take a lot of practice to get this girl into the intermediate class.  And truth is:  I just don’t see it.  Because once I get there – I’m going to have to play OTHER intermediate players.  Who will beat me.  And then I’ll have to practice more to get to the Advanced level.  Where I’ll get beat again. 


The bottom line is…why?  What’s in it for me?  (Humiliation is not a reward, BTW)  I suppose someone could suggest that I could concentrate on the FUN of Tennis (and it is fun), and the occasional thrill when I land a serve INSIDE the service box.  But so far, the reward isn’t greater than the cost. 


(Although, something inside me compels to return to the courts every summer.  I think that’s called FAITH…)


  • Your character has to see past the COSTS to the REWARDS.  And, they have to believe that it’s possible. Or at least, that it could be.  Seeing the Costs and the Rewards will make them look inside, to ask WHY that Reward is worth fighting for. (which brings us to tomorrow’s lesson – the DESIRE, and how that is key in creating character change!)  Later, they’ll discover what it is inside them that stands in the way.  But for now they have to believe that it’s worth the battle. 


So, how do you do that? 


1.      Give them a hero.   Someone who has been the course, and fought the good fight, who knows the Reward.  Like Obe-Wan-Kenobi, who was the Jedi master, and Luke’s mentor.  Or, in Sleepless in Seattle, Annie’s parents, who had a long-lasting true love. 

2.     Give them a glimpse of the darkness.  Up the ante by adding into the mix the “what if we do nothing” question.  Give them a glimpse of what could happen if they don’t fight the good fight.   Like, when, at the end of LOTR 1, Frodo and gang fight Mordor’s creepy army.  They know their destruction will overrun the land if they don’t stop it. 

3.     Give them a cause.  Kidnap their sidekick, make them fall in love with the princess, save a kingdom – anything to make them realize that if they give up, they’ll lose what they love.  Titanic  is a classic example (I can’t think of that movie without hearing – “Jack, Jack!  Come Back!”)  Falling in love makes them realize what they have to live for!


The Reward has to be at least a vivid, as compelling, as tangible as the cost.  Or frankly, they’ll end up taking the beginners class, year, after year, after year….


Rachel chiming in: Wow, great post, Suz. I feel like I have nothing to add. Well said,

Okay, one thing. I’ve asked a few people lately: what does your character want?

Mostly, I hear, “to know God loves them.” Or, “to find love.”

Great, noble causes. But left to themselves, it’s not a good story. Take Rose in Titanic. Rose wants to find love yes, but really she wants freedom. From her mother. From society. From expectations.

Rose wants to discover herself. On the voyage, she begins to understand she is not the woman she’s pretending to be. She doesn’t want to be a society wife.

This struggle is what makes us love her. It’s what makes us identify with her. She wants to freedom and Jacks love fuels her courage. 

Now, think of your story, and go deeper.


See you tomorrow!