Each scene in both your novel and nonfiction accounts of real people, like pearls on a string forming a necklace, must have a unique contribution to make to the whole. For the sequences to add their individual luster to the overall novel or account of events, though, we need something on which to thread these gems. The main figure’s overall intention and intermediate, scene-by-scene goals will provide the cord on which the units of progression are hung.
Active v. Passive Inspirational Figures
We can all think of a novel or inspirational account that worked very nicely yet focused on someone thrown by circumstances into the doldrums. Those writings are the rare exceptions, however–not the rule–and the stories often chronicle how the hero or saint returned to full, active function. Let’s face it: Active men and women simply involve us more than passive ones, since fiction or narrative nonfiction, when they work best, trigger reader identification with the main figure and a reader sense of participation in the story via that emotional link.
The individuals we most want to travel with are generally capable of taking steps courageously or competently, or both. Every novel chronicles the hero’s journey, just as every true-to-life story, including yours and mine, can be viewed as that, too. In identifying with an individual on the page, we want to see him or her as active figures in the drama of life. The hero’s journey tells a story of overcoming, and overcoming takes some inner as well as outer resolve, especially in the spiritual realm.
For any author’s character or spiritual subject to earn the readers’ respect and interest, he or she must be able to exert a modicum of control over self and outcome. The person representing the inspirational core of whatever you might write must rise to big challenges–the greater they are, the more enthralled readers will become. Editors, as well as readers, are looking for active characters and people to stir them up; men and women roused to action simply make more interesting, sympathetic, and dramatic figures.
Most readers fall into the fairly physically and mentally healthy range and blood courses through them. They want to feel an added charge when reading and not a depletion. Pessimism, passivity, and depression just aren’t big sellers in the book or article marketplace.
Something must take the protagonist or the inspirational individual out of his shell and force him to act—and this emergency or crisis should happen somewhat quickly in the story, before readers become too dispirited themselves to read any further. The author doesn’t have to be a Pollyanna and present a world of happiness and light—she just needs to add some feeling of dynamism that will rouse her audience to read on.
Both fiction and nonfiction can be escapist entertainment and an inspiration allowing individuals to exercise their problem-solving skills. Whatever form the story or narration fits into (fiction or nonfiction, long or short), the actual tale must be intense enough to take readers away from their everyday lives and inspirational enough to instill positive values that they can bring back to their ordinary existences. Those writers who understand the mechanics of raising the stakes for hero and displaying the great stakes for the world’s spiritual leaders, consequently inspiring readers, will find their manuscripts and books sought out.
How Nice Must They Be?
This brings up one factor that is often under debate in writing novels as well as in true-to-life narrative: How likable does the protagonist or figure under the author’s scrutiny have to be? The overall prejudice on the part of the editors seems to be that the character or spiritual leader should be more likable than not. If the hero/heroine or even spiritual great isn’t entirely the cuddly type, that can be okay, so long as we can care about him or her, finding evidence of human traits with which we can identify.
Yet likable is better and a sociable hero or heroine or spiritual guide is more sellable than a sour one, though the character or real-life model can have quirks so long as, in the end, readers are able to understand his or her virtues. This is the reaction of contemporary editors, and selling a less-than-admirable protagonist or spiritual figure can be difficult.
Being unable to open the novel with a snarling, sniveling, whining heroine—who later grows–can make character development in some of the genres a little troublesome for the author. A focus on the spiritual great who gave his followers a hard time over minutia (and many do) can be tricky. But there you have it. Most editors don’t want to take the chance that readers will be unwilling to travel along with an accurate description of the personality transformation process. However, while authors have a choice of portrayal in the novel, an honest representation is preferable in a true-to-life account, even if the road to publication might be strewn with boulders.
And what about the rest of the cast? As with fiction of any type as well as nonfiction narrative, the more realistically portrayed the people are, the more readers will accept who they seem to be and their actions.
This article was taken from the course Essentials of Writing to Inspire. Click here to register for the course now!