Good things supposedly come in threes, right? Whatever your numerical fave is, grab all your literary vitamins because today’s Theme of the Day is STRENGTH.
Do you like your characters strong or weak? Powerful or vulnerable? Invincible or push-overs?
The answer lies, as in so many things, on the golden middle path.
Should You Have Characters With Physical Strength?
Superheroes sure are sexy. They can (literally) sweep you off your feet, hoist a furious elephant over the shoulder with one hand, and stop a high-speed train with their broad shoulders angled just so.
Characters that are physically strong have a certain charisma, attraction, a perceived power that comes pre-wired with our still-evolving biology.
They’re also completely one-dimensional (romance writers listen up!).
This is not to say you can’t have a physically powerful hero or heroine, antagonist, or any other member of your dramatis personae. Just mix it up a little. Weave in a little weakness, a hint of disability, just a touch of frailty right beneath those bulging muscles, that towering stature. It will make your characters so much more human, so much more complex. So much more real.
Note I didn’t say “realistic.” You could be writing about faeries, trolls, or zombie robots on another planet. If you want your characters to have real substance, real dimension, give each one the varied levels and types of physical strength and weakness that will bring out their internal conflict and rev up their role in the narrative.
Should You Have Characters With Psychological Strength
It may seem harder to go to the gym or hit that trail every day to build up your physical strength and stamina, but in most real-life situations, it’s the psychological or emotional fortitude that can take a lifetime to refine, shape, and master. There’s just so much more to it than practice, healthy eating, hydration, sleep, those sorts of things that you can generally control to attain a healthy, strong body.
Think about how challenging it is to change the way you react to situations. The way you think and feel about yourself, your beloved others, or the people or things you rather dislike. The way you cope with the tougher—and plushier—sides of life. The way you deal with rejection, fear, guilt, violence, or abuse—as well as acceptance, fame, abundance, support, and comfort.
And then there is the factor of TIME. It’s one thing to withstand a certain type of difficulty or burden for a day, a week, even a year… quite another to deal with it for decades or an entire lifetime.
This is what gives a character true grit.
(Hmm. Sounds a bit like writing itself, doesn’t it… we writers need to be psychologically resilient just to write about some of this stuff, nevermind live through it!)
These are just two types of strength your characters can have—or lack. What are others? What kind of strength/s, or lack thereof, have you employed in your work, why, and with what results?
One More Thing
It is said the Aztecs could walk an entire day on just one cup of xocolatl—chocolate. That’s strong stuff! Given some of the pure dark chocolate bars being crafted today, I totally believe it. It’s good and it’s healthy. So if you’d like your kids to grow up knowing the difference between the real cacao deal and the adulterated, sugar-injected candy mislabeled as “chocolate,” sign them up for my “Story of Chocolate” program taking place this Saturday, May 10, at Hidden Villa organic ranch in Los Altos Hills, California.
(We’ll have other events like this one, so no worries if you can’t make it!)
Be strong. Be firm. Write complex shades of strength (but please, not fifty) into your characters and their life stories. Create multicolored tapestries of fortitude. Feed conflict into force, and resolve into resolution.
Post your powerful writings here, and be sure to critique your fellow chest-beaters. As always: praise feels great, but critique makes you stronger.