Friday, October 22, 2010

Passion in Characters

Does your main character have passion? I'm not talking about love for someone else. 



No this is more along the lines of, what is it that your main character wants more than anything else in the world? Does he want to be cop, nurse, singer, or even president? Do you show your character's ambition towards achieving his goal? If not, you should.


Giving your main character passion not only makes them well rounded, but it also gives your readers someone they can cheer for. They want to see your character succeed. BUT they also want to see the pain and hardship he goes through to accomplish his goal. They want to be there with him as he fights incredible odds and yet comes out on top.

So how do you show passion? Let's look at a character that is one of my favorites, George Bailey from It's a Wonderful Life. Don't moan. I know it's an old film, but it's a classic for a reason . . . the character of George Bailey. George had passion. And though this is a movie, the filmmakers went to incredible lengths to show George's passion for travel.


First there's the scene of George picking up his suitcase from Mr. Gower. Excitement shines in George's eyes as he holds that suitcase and tells how he's going to see the world. But there's a delay in George's plans because his father dies. He makes an arrangement with his brother that George will stay home and run their father's business while little brother goes to college and when he's finished George then plans to finally see the world. 

So, of course, when little brother returns home he's married and his new wife wants her husband to work with her father. Where does this leave George? Postponing his travels again, but he falls in love and gets married. He still plans to see the world with his wife, but what happens? The banks fail and George uses his travel money to help the company business and all those families who need money. So does George ever get to see his dream come true? Yes, but not as he thought he would. He learns what his true passion is and so does everyone watching the movie.


George had passion. Okay that's on film, but what about a character in a book? 

In ways it's much easier in a book. Say Rachel wants to become a singer. She knows of an audition that could really send her on the right track for her career. You write how she sings to herself at work, how from the moment she gets up in the morning to the moment she goes to bed she visualizes going before the judges and belting out a song. She takes all her savings to buy the perfect outfit for the audition, even though she'll be short on rent money. But she believes with every fiber in her being that she's going to win. She has to win. Then the night before her big break Rachel feels a tickle in her throat. She takes extra vitamins to ward off a cold, eats chicken soup for supper and even goes to bed early. But despite all her efforts, she awakens to the worse sore throat she's ever had. Not to be stopped, she goes anyway. With a pocket full of throat lozenges, she goes before the judges. She opens her mouth to sing and . . .


I don't need to finish this story for you to know that Rachel has passion. Give your main character passion. Whether they see their dreams come true or not is up to you. Maybe, like George Bailey, your character will find out that what he really wanted out of life was something very different from what he first thought, but through it all give him passion.


If you want to see passion in a character take a look at the closing scene of It's a Wonderful Life. This shows George's true passion in his life.

6 comments:

  1. A character has to have passion for something, or else the book will only be ho-hum. =)

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  2. Love the video.
    I left out the passionate side of my POV, when I first wrote my novel draft. She was so boring. I had to really add some oomph in her personality and life.

    Getting the balance is hard, but worth it in the end.

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  3. George Bailey is one of my favorite characters of all time. I love the guy. Should we all be half so giving, half so kind, the world would be in excellent shape!

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  4. Carolyn,
    I know what you mean. But you'd be surprised how many books I've read where the main character just goes along with what's happening around him without showing much passion.

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  5. Glynis,
    It's easy to do because you become so wrapped up in the plot. I've caught myself several times. =]

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  6. Laura,
    I'm right with you. George Bailey rocks! I watch him every Christmas. The story never grows old.

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