Tips for Writers: Frustrate Your Hero


I know, you’re thinking, “Well, of course. I always seek Mick Jagger’s advice when creating characters.”

Or not.

But Mick has a point: Instead of building a conventional dramatic arc by having your main character ultimately get what he or she wants (after overcoming the bad guys), have your hero try but fail to get what s/he wants, ultimately getting what s/he needs instead.

Some examples:

  • Schindler’s List – Oskar Schindler wants to make money exploiting Jews. Instead, he grows a soul and spends every penny he has rescuing them from the Nazis.
  • Home Alone – Immature Kevin wants to avoid responsibility–and things that scare him.  Instead, he ends up taking on the responsibility of protecting his home, and faces his worst fears, becoming more mature in the process.
  • Jurassic Park – Dr. Alan Grant wants to marry his paleontological sweetheart and pursue pure science without the messiness of children. Instead, he ends up putting his life on the line to protect two children, and opens up his heart up in the process.
  • Huckleberry Finn – Huck wants to be free from “sivilizashun,” but instead ends up reentering civilization in order to help free runaway slave Jim (although at the end of the story Huck vows to escape again).

Virtually every tragedy, from Oedipus Rex, to Hamlet, to Catcher in the Rye follows this principal.  Although the hero often dies in the end, they–or we–learn something necessary as a result!

So prove you’ve got the moves like Jagger and try creating a leadI-Cant-Get-No-Satisfaction character who Can’t Get No Satisfaction!

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Story Power, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Tips for Writers: Frustrate Your Hero

  1. loreguardian says:

    Great advice! I won’t be able to listen to these songs w/o thinking of this writing advice. And that’s a good thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rose says:

    Excellent post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Outstanding! I’m working on a new character right now and this advice will definitely give her more depth. Thank you! 😋

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good post, Mitch! Great examples!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mitchteemley says:

    Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:

    Still in production on my feature film. Meanwhile, for my writer friends, here’s a tip on creating strong, character-driven plotlines. Have a great weekend! ~Mitch


  6. Rowena says:

    Great tip, thanks very much. I’ve always been a great fan of John Lennon’s great quote: “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”
    I much prefer your kind of ending to the often predictable endings to so many movies. They lose all suspense because you know the ending before the movie even began.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I recently listened to an audiobook version of Macbeth: The Novel, read by Alan Cumming. It was spectacular. Despite the fact that it is a very grisly story, full of murder and violence and despair, it is the conflict within the characters, as well as the conflict between the characters, that drives the story to its inevitable end.
    Best wishes for your filmmaking, Mitch 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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