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Creating An Underdog Character (Secrets Of Narrative Drive), by Sarah Mussi

The Last of the Warrior Kings by Sarah Mussi

This post, I believe, reveals one of the most important secrets in harnessing narrative drive. If you only do this one thing, it will go a long way to creating enough pace and tension to see your character through most of the story, without losing your teenage reader. It is a common enough ploy. It’s the cliff in the cliff hanger, the drama in melodrama, the thrill in a thriller.


The Secrets of Narrative Drive

Secret Number 5

drum roll…  tada!

Stack the odds against the main character 

Why will stacking the odds against the protagonist help create character empathy, ensure page turning and enthral your reader? Here’s why:

  • People dislike unfairness.
  • We root for the underdog.
  • We despise villains and overlords.
  • We’re naturally wired to rebel against tyrants.
  • The more unfair treatment is ladled out to our heroes the more we care about them and want them be free of their oppressors.
  • The braver the underdog the more we are hooked into their story.

Fair enough?

If the reader has already invested empathetically with the protagonist, then stacking the odds against them will help readers care about your character  and what happens to them.

How you can use this secret?

  • Treat your character unfairly
  • Put them in jeopardy Injure them, if appropriate
  • Don’t let up on them for more than a page
  • Don’t rescue them.

Can you think of how this device is used in novels you’ve read?  What about The Hunger Games - just try to count the ways that Katniss is:

  • Treated unfairly
  • Put in jeopardy
  • Injured
  • Not let up on
  • Not rescued.
  • Tricked
  • Oppressed
  • Hunted

Need I say more?



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The Door of No ReturnThe Last of the Warrior KingsAngel Dust     The HuntingNecromancing the StoneSparkRikers High

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