Hamartia: the Protagonist’s Tragic Flaw at UNK

Identifying your hero’s tragic flaw is likely to be the most powerful first step you can take when creating or rewriting a story. Why? Let The Unknown Screenwriter (UNK, to y’all) fill you in:

A Protagonist’s tragic flaw is actually more like his or her ego defense mechanism. In the beginning of the story and through approximately the third quarter of a story, the Protagonist continually relies on this tragic flaw to get as far as he or she has gotten. Up …

Creating a Formidable Antagonist

As important to creating compelling stories as it is to focus on the protagonist, it’s equally (possibly even more important) to create formidable conflict for the hero. Without challenges to overcome–challenges worthy of our heroine’s mettle–an audience may quickly become disinterested. I mean, wouldn’t you?

After all, stories represent pivotal points in people’s lives, times of great personal change and/or accomplishment. Our attention tends to breeze by the moments of our lives spent washing dishes or putting gas in the car and, instead, …

Is Your Hero Sympathetic and What the Heck Does That Mean?

Before we dig into this one, let’s brush up on a couple of concepts that are essential to great storytelling: Sympathy: sharing the feelings or interests of another (“I feel the same!”) Empathy: vicariously experiencing the feelings or thoughts of another (“I understand how you feel.”)

These two sides of the same coin are what enables storytellers to create and recreate stories that resonate with their audiences. These are what allows our work to transcend the state of being …

“More on Villians” on What It’s Like

Lisa Klink over at What It’s Like posts about the perils of over-explaining your villain’s motivations.

Generally, attempts to explain why a bad guy went bad turn out to be oversimplified and unsatisfying.

My general advice here is that if you’re creating an extreme villain (like Hannibal, the Joker or Anton Chigurh), don’t feel obliged to explain their psychosis – it may backfire on you. Let them be like the shark – a force of nature no one can truly understand.

She’s right …

Focus on the Protagonist

When stories stray from the protagonist and the events of her journey to serve up “interesting” secondary characters’ lives and/or large, intangible world events, the result is often a fuzzy narrative that doesn’t captivate its audience.

The elemental principle here: Focus on the Protagonist.

Holding focus on a single person throughout a narrative satisfies our unconscious, innate need to relate to …