In last week's post I talked about how writing is the only aspect of our lives where we have complete agency. I hope you gave it a try. Did you discover the liberation of being completely in control of your own world?
Today I'd like to talk about how our characters need to have agency in their own lives.
Imagine your story opens with your character working through the night for a demanding boss. In the morning, the boss takes all the credit for the work. Is your character the type of person who meekly accepts this, and carries on working for the boss who continues to take all the credit? Or is your character the type to challenge the boss, or who quits the job and takes the leap into the unknown to set up their own business?
If your character is the former, the chances are you don't have much of a story. The chances are even bigger that your reader will lose patience with your character and give up on the story, unless that character makes a pro-active decision to change their situation - and soon!
If your character is the latter, the reader is more likely to keep on reading. They're invested now in the outcome: will the challenge lead to a better or worse situation? Will the new business succeed?
If you want the reader to follow your story through to the end, your main character needs to be the kind of person who makes things happen, rather than the kind of person that things happen to. They need to make their own decisions, even if that decision is simply to make the best out of a bad situation. Often, the decisions they take will make the situation worse (and you want that, because then you have a story!) but at least they have agency over their lives.
What is the first main decision your main character faces in your story? What do they decide, and where does this decision take them? This is the starting point of your story.