Obviously we want our readers to love and cheer on our main characters. But we can’t write Mary Sues if we want them to come off as tangible and authentic. That doesn’t exactly make for an exciting story. There has to be conflict, both external and internal. The main character has to be flawed.
And that means at some point your main character is going to fail.
So today we’re going to focus on conflict, and specifically the conflict in the first half of your story. During the first half of the story, our hero tends to be wandering somewhat off the path he’s supposed to take. He hasn’t become a hero of action yet. According to Larry Brooks' story structure philosphy, that happens at the Midpoint (which we’ll get to later.) So before the chase begins and your plot gets on-like-neckbone, you’ve got to let your main character struggle and search for what he’s supposed to do.
And this isn’t just when you’re writing action or speculative fic. It happens in every genre. If your Contemporary Romance MC gets the guy right away, that doesn’t give us much of a story. Well, unless you’re EL James, and let’s face it, we’re not exactly reading that for the plot now are we?
And when I say ‘we,’ I mean hypothetical ‘we.’ I swear.
So today, focus on the conflict scenes you’ll write before your hero begins to take a direct course of action that will lead to the book’s climax. Some examples:
Harry et al. discover the forbidden corridor on the third floor and nearly get eaten by a three-headed dog.
Tris gets her ass handed to her by Peter during Dauntless initiation.
Katniss gets herself treed near a tracker-jacker hive.
How will your main character fail?