Writers, I know what you’re thinking, “Well, of course. I always seek the Rolling Stones’ advice when I’m creating characters and storylines.”
Or maybe not.
But Mick does have 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), consider having your hero try but fail to get what s/he wants, and instead get what s/he needs.
- 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. Even if the hero often dies in the end, they–and we–learn something necessary as a result. So prove you’ve got the moves like Jagger and try creating a lead character who…
Can’t get no satisfaction!