Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Fear, accomplishment, regret?

I've just seen details of a blogfest where the participants are asked to write about their MC's greatest fear, biggest accomplishment and biggest regret.  This is an exercise designed to help them to get to know their characters better.

I started thinking about this.  Not in relation to any of my main characters, though, but in relation to myself - and I realised I couldn't define any of these things!

Greatest fear?  Can't think of a greatest.  I have lots of lesser and larger fears, from being stung by a wasp to being in a plane crash.  From fearing a bad review for one of my books to being scared of spiders.  (I know, I'm a wimp!).   I've had lots of different fears at different times of my life.  But 'greatest' fear?  Nope, can't say that I have one single great fear.

Biggest accomplishment?  I've accomplished a lot of things but how do I quantify or compare them?  Is bringing up two daughters to be mature and responsible adults a 'bigger' accomplishment than having a 25 year career as a teacher?  Is running a Girl Guide unit for 20+ years a bigger accomplishment than running a social group for over 50's for the last 12 years?  I'm proud of many things that I've achieved, but no way could I say which was the 'biggest' accomplishment.

Biggest regret?  We all have regrets and I'm no exception.  But again, it's impossible to define the 'biggest' regret because it's so difficult to compare one with another.

As a result of my self-questioning, I question the value of asking writers to define their main character's  'biggest' fear, accomplishment or regret.  By doing so, I think we run the risk of making our characters one-dimensional.  I think we have to take into account, not the 'biggest', but ALL the hopes and fears, accomplishments and failures that contribute to the complexity of each individual's personality.

What do you think? 


  1. I agree with you on a personal level, Paula, but perhaps identifying the character's biggest fear or accomplishment can be looked at as something within a finite period of time (such as the time period in your book). Perhaps things might change in the character's earlier or later life (neither of which would be covered in the book), but for now, one or two things might be true?

  2. I know what you mean, Jen, but I remember reading a romance where the writer had decided that 'fear of losing control of his life' was the hero's biggest fear, and as a result we saw only that aspect of him (again and again and again!). That's what I meant about the danger of making the character one-dimensional rather than exploring all aspects of his/her character and personality.

  3. Somehow I can only write down what my characters look like when I start writing i.e hair, eyes, skin etc first then as the characters start to come alive to me I start adding other details, fears, regrets etc. It like getting to know someone in real life, you just don't know them until you have known them for sometime.

  4. Jarmara, I agree with you 100%! I get to know my characters while I'm writing about them, and they gradually reveal different aspects of their character/personality to me.

  5. I think you're right Paula. It's hard to quantify for ourselves let alone our characters. They do a slow reveal and surprise us then we start questioning their motivations, thus getting to know them better.


  6. Grr, Blogger won't let me sign in!
    You said it much better than I did, Denise - but that's exactly how I see the development of their characters. If I tried to 'define' them before I started writing the novel, I would feel as if I'd put them in a straitjacket with no room for development.

  7. Paula - you've been tagged...my blog, my rules! ;-) I can't wait to see your responses. http://writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2011/06/ive-been-tagged_08.html

  8. LOL, Sylvia, thanks so much, I'm looking forward to answering the questions and tagging some more bloggers!