Alleviating Boredom: Making a Passive Character Active, Fiona McDonald
Agatha La Motte is an independent, feisty character and I thought I had captured this side of her. When she inherited her Uncle’s prosperous toy shop she was determined to keep and run it even though there was social pressure for her to sell it and get married. With all the other nasty big things that were going to threaten Agatha throughout the story I thought there was going to be plenty of action.
I had written about 25,000 words or so and thought I was doing rather well. Then I began to feel there was something missing from the story even though I was following my plot outline. I described this feeling as emptiness. My story felt as though it had no real content.
Then Steve Rossiter pointed out that the problem was probably one of passivity on the part of Agatha. She needed short, medium and long term goals within the overall structure of story. It was all very well having a grand plan, including a sub plot, but Agatha needed a few problems to sort out along the way. It wasn’t that she was totally passive but she needed more action than I had given her. Steve suggested financial difficulties for the shop. Agatha has creditors closing in on her and she has to come up with a strategy to keep the shop going. This would generate all sorts of action for Agatha to have to cope with while she battled the bigger threats.
With Agatha’s debts throwing up new narrative material the problem of emptiness recedes. It is these types of secondary dilemmas that provide the detail for a fulfilling story. As I continue to think about Agatha’s money woes the more they seem to fit naturally into the story and may well become an integral part of the major plot and introduce a whole bunch of intriguing characters.