The Five C's
Alright, let's continue our look into this remarkable tool for story and character development I learned in this wonderful book. We learned the first "C" is for Characters as a reminder to make sure you know your characters and that they are well developed. Then we learned the second "C" was for Conflict. Adding a little conflict to your story draws in your readers because it causes them to care about what your character is struggling with.
So, what's the next "C"?
To make sure your character is given plenty of obstacles, remember to give him/her plenty of choices to make in the story.
For instance, Harry Potter makes the choice to follow Hagrid into the unknown and study wizardry at Hogwarts. Later, Harry makes the choice to sacrifice his own life to save the lives of many others. As you can see, some choices you put before your character will be less significant than others, but they must still be important and move the story along.
Katniss, the heroine in The Hunger Games, makes the painful choice to take her sister's place in the games saving her sister's life, but putting her own life in grave danger.
Edmond in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe makes the choice to listen to the White Witch and put his friends in danger.
Frodo, in The Lord of the Rings, chooses to take the journey to rid the world of the ring and destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom.
All of these choices move the story along, but they also reveal to the reader something important about the character.
The choices you put before your character must do the same.
As a result of all these choices, your character must go through some sort of change from the beginning of the story to the end. She must walk away different than she was at the start. This change can be both physical and emotional, but change must occur because that's life. That's how it works.
Harry Potter changed both chronologically and physically, but at the end of the story he had changed emotionally and psychologically as well.
Show us how your character has changed. Paint us a picture. In my book, The Dragon Forest, my protagonist is a ten year old prince who goes through a tremendous life-changing event. As a result, we see him change from a spoiled, yet precocious boy to a mature young man who now knows what it means to be king.
All those obstacles and choices you put before your main character will change them just as in real life. You are not the same person you were fifteen years ago, fifteen days ago, or fifteen minutes ago!
By giving your character compassion, you are creating a bond or connection between him and your reader.
When Katniss makes the choice to take her sister's place, the reader is bonded to her. Now we care about what happens to such a brave compassionate girl.
When Harry Potter knows he must face Voldemort alone for the sake of saving many lives, the reader is bonded to him because he has that compassion for others. We care deeply for this young man.
When Frodo, the lowest of the lows, takes on the monumental task of taking the ring to Mordor, we see compassion in that choice. Readers are drawn to that display of compassion for others.
A lack of compassion can also draw your readers into the story.
Well, think of some of the most famous villains you love to hate. Darth Vader. So many fans love this character because of his lack of compassion early on. He was one of the best villains ever written for the screen because we loved to hate him.
Loki in The Avengers. Here's another villain we love to hate because he shows no compassion for the people. He is evil through and through.
And, of course, Voldemort. His fierce lack of compassion for others is what makes him a well-rounded villain. Readers hoped there would be no redemption for such a character.
What About the "S"?
In the Five C's we have the little "s" at the end.
This stands for "Surprise!"
It is always good to have that element of surprise in your story, but make sure it is relevant to your story otherwise it will stand out as a distraction and work against you.
When Gandalf dies in The Fellowship of the Ring, that was a complete surprise. Readers must have felt cheated in some way.
When Aslan sacrifices himself to the White Witch and is brutally killed, that was a surprise.
When Cedric dies in The Goblet of Fire, readers were surprised. Actually, the Harry Potter series has MANY surprises!
But notice how all these surprises do not harm the storyline, but help it move forward.
If you have a surprise in your story, develop it in such a way that your readers are drawn into your story. Make it to where they care more than every before what happens next.
The Five "C's" and an "S"
Well, I hope these tools have helped you as much as they have helped me.
When I get stuck somewhere in a story, I usually take a moment to check and see if I have indeed added the Five C's somewhere.
I highly recommend Conrad's book, 101 Best Scenes Ever Written. It's a fun read, very original in that he analyzes scenes from books, film, and plays.
Good luck in your writing! Make sure you are having fun! And make sure you take advantage of the tools others have created because they really do help.
But most importantly... just write!
Your turn: What about you? How have you been able to add the Five C's into your story?