Friday, September 11, 2009

Bestseller Writing Secrets From "District 9"

A second secret writing tactic from the movie, District 9, happens late in the film, when the main character, the protagonist, is faced with a difficult ethical dilemma. He is forced to decide between what he wants (to reverse the process of his body transforming into an alien) and helping an alien friend and his alien child flee to their spaceship to save the alien race.

Facing such a tough decision in itself is an often-used plot device in bestselling novels. You would be wise to write a scene or two in your stories where your hero must choose between what he wants most and something, anything else of value. The tougher the choice (the more valuable both options) the more reader interest.

But it is the choice the hero makes that propels middle-grade fiction to blockbuster status. In District 9 the main character decides to help the alien and his alien son escape, thus putting another before himself. It is an act of courage, sacrifice and heroism that moves audiences.

Therein lies the second secret: Allow your hero to make the tough choice, and let that choice show courage, sacrifice and humility. Do it. Readers will fall in love with your characters.

Take these practical steps to apply this secret to your story immediately:

  1. List each main character in your story (each point of view character).
  2. Circle the dominant point of view character (the main main character).
  3. Answer the questions, "What does this character want more than anything? What else do they want?"
  4. Answer the questions, "What would be a difficult choice for this character to make? What two things would the character hate to have to choose between?"
  5. Brainstorm ways for one of the choices to include an act of bravery or self-sacrifice.
  6. Write a scene or scenes where the character must chose between the two choices.
  7. Try to give several other characters in your story hard choices to make during the course of the story. See how it enhances reader interest and suspense.

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