1. Your Protagonist must have strong convictions to hold to as things change his world.
- A Mennonite pastor has a daughter killed by a drunk driver. His beliefs call for forgiveness, but does he want revenge instead? Every character in your story should want/need something.
2. List 10 inner demons for your Protagonist, choose the best one and work it into the back-story, then see how it affects him now and how it could hinder him in the future.
3. Put convictions to the test. Using bribery or extortion, test your characters. How far would he/she go to get what they want / need? What it would it take to keep them from achieving their goals ? Threats must be credible or your reader won’t believe them.
4. Force your character into a corner, give them no wiggle room, no easy solution, no easy way out. Make them look at all angles and possibilities to solve their problems and achieve a means to their end. Give them a choice that will make them live with the consequences. Think Sophie’s Choice, how does one choose which child to give up, how does one live with the choice once it is made. The decision drove Sophie mad in the end.
5. Let the dilemmas grow from the genres.
- Crime Stories – when do revenge and justice converge? When is pre-emptive justice really justice? What does it require of your character?
- Love / Romance – how can faithfulness lead to betrayal? When is it better to hide the truth than share it? How far can you color the truth before it becomes a lie? Do not undermine any sacrifices given – love has a cost, do not belittle it.
- Fantasy / Scifi / Fiction: explore the consciousness, humanity and morality.
6. Look for the Third way.
- With Jesus, he showed us an alternate or 3rd way. “let those without sin cast the first stone.” There is usually an alternative way to achieve your character’s wants, which one is the best?
7. Twists and Turns – These must serve the story and be anchored in the story’s elements. Use foreshadowing. The twist must relate to the story.
8. Grab your reader early. Craft an interesting and effective first sentence that engages the reader and hints at the conflict.