One of the hardest things for most writers to develop is a mean spirit. It doesn't matter if you write grizzly horror stories, intense thrillers, cozy mysteries, romances or any other genre, you have to be willing to make your protagonist's life far worse than you could initially imagine.
If every problem is solvable, how interesting is your story?
- What is your protagonist's external problem? How can you make it bigger?
- What is your protagonist's internal problem? How can you make it worse?
- Can you make the effects of these problems worse for other people in your protagonist's life as well? Repercussions are lovely bits to build on.
- Do these problems make people behave in ways they wouldn't normally? Are more problems created? A bigger one? More dangerous?
- How can you make it more difficult for your protagonist to solve these problems? How can you raise the stakes to an entirely new level? What more can you put at risk?
There must be a gorilla in the phone booth, even if the reader is the only one who knows he's there—and that might even be better.
A safe, well-adjusted protagonist might be the kind of guy you'd like to live next door, but he isn't the kind of guy you want to spend hours reading about in your spare time.
As a reader, have you ever experienced this kind of boredom?
As a writer, how do you harness your mean genes?
It's all better with friends.