“Will It Cost an Arm, a Leg, and His First-Born Child?" by Joan Y. Edwards
What is the cost of what your main character wants or needs? Will your character's problem cost him an arm, a leg, or his first-born child? It has to be an extremely high cost. If there’s no cost for your main character, there’s no story. Your main character can't continue doing what he's done in the past. He's forced by inner or outer circumstances and emotions to change.
The witch twitched her head around and poked the polka-dotted princess on the forehead, “Princess, princess, so forlorn. Give to me your very first-born.”
“How am I going to get to California from Charlotte? Are you kidding? Even a tank of gasoline costs an arm, a leg, and your first child.” John looked at his overalls with paint stains from his last paying job and hung his head low.
When you’re writing a story, usually the main character has three tries, three steps, or three levels to get something. In money, the first try costs $100.00. The second, $200.00. And the third, $300.00. If he’s willing to pay $600.00, make it cost him double. If he’s totally sure of himself and brags a lot, triple the cost. It could cost him physical pain. It could cost emotional pain with loss of family, job, and pride. Looming through the experience might be embarrassment, frustration, betrayal, and abandonment.
What? Your character is as tough as ten giant boulders, none of these things would hurt him. If that's the case, up the emotional, physical, and monetary costs. Brainstorm to find three or more things that make him wince and whine, but he'd still be willing to do them to gain his reward, to win the battle, to get the job, to solve his problem. If your character really wants or needs something, he will do whatever it costs. Even though he is scared, tense, and angry, your character will do anything to get his goal. He will even risk death to get it. He will not give up. He might come close to it. But his determination keeps growing. No matter how hard you fight to keep him from getting it, your main character will keep on going.
Up the cost of what your character wants. Make him jump through hoops he’s never even heard of. You created this character. Don't be afraid of hurting him. He is strong. He can take it. Write your story. There's nothing your character won't do for what he wants. He's willing to pay an arm, a leg, or a first child for it.
Thank you for reading this article. In your favorite stories, what did the main character want and what did it cost him? Please tell me all about it in a comment.
Keep on Writing
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards