So you have figured out:
- the dramatic concept of your story
- the stories premise that leverages the concept
- you understand the antagonistic force in your story (cue the bad guy wearing a black cloak in an action adventure story or maybe the traditional parents forbidding the heroine’s marriage to a man of another religion in a romance story)
- you have your hero or heroine well defined and hopefully you remembered the inner weakness sometimes known as the inner lie they tell themselves or simply the character flaw.
Dramatic stories have a conflict between a protagonistic force – usually a main hero or heroine – and an external antagonistic force – perhaps villain(s) of some kind. For the audience to be really impressed by, and empathise with, a hero or heroine, it is not enough for them to learn something new in the course of the plot that they then use to defeat the antagonistic force. To put a sharper turn in the character arc they need an inner weakness – an inner antagonistic force – to overcome on the way. It needs to be something unacceptable about the role or the environment in which the character resides.
Some examples, all be it relatively simple and unsophisticated ones:
Dumbo the Elephant encounters the antagonistic force that is societies reaction to his overly large ears. He learns to fly on route to overcoming this by impressing people with his unusual skill for an elephant, but he lacks confidence in his ability to fly without the magic feather. Ultimately Dumbo summons the courage to believe he can fly without the feather.
Indiana Jones hates snakes which is not good news for an adventuring archaeologist that needs to travel to all climates in the world to complete his quests.
Luke Skywalker had to learn to have faith in the force and use it to destroy the death star.
In Groundhog Day Phil, the weatherman had to overcome his cynical bad mannered nature before he could win the girls affections and break the antagonistic force that was the time loop trapping him in the same day over and over again.
What is your protagonist’s inner weakness?