Dec 20

Creating a Hero: Q&A Interview with Taiza French, pt1

J.K. Brown: Today, I welcome a fan of mine. Her final exam is about how to create a hero, and I am honored that she came to me for answers. I hope this interview helps her score well in the class. Here is Taiza French!

Taiza French: Actually, thank you for having me!

Brown: So when it comes to the hero, where do you want to start?

French: Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin. I have a good grasp on what makes a hero from the assignments I’ve done so far, but creating one seems so much harder.

Brown: That’s common. Creating your first character is always difficult because you haven’t developed a writing style yet. You really have two easy routes to try first: start with your character’s traits, writing them down like a laundry list so you can picture your character easier, or you can create a scenario and just throw your character into it, molding them to meet the task at hand. Everyone has their own preference that suits them best.

French: How would you do it?

Brown: I like creating characters first. I’m a plot-oriented author, meaning the plot is where my focus goes. I start with characters, though, because I don’t like my characters to have an easy win. I want them to work for their happy ending, assuming they can get it. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail. It’s what keeps the story interesting for me, and it’s always wise for the writer to write what interests him.

French: I’m hoping to create a hero though, and I’d like her to succeed.

Brown: Not a problem! Start with your heroine’s traits then. Make her as heroic as you want. Unless you intend to publish this someday, don’t worry about most pitfalls that you may read about online… authors have to avoid them, not you. Next, once you have all the important details down, put her into a scenario. To make good conflict, you need to make sure it is difficult for her to succeed, even though you as the writer know she will in the end. That’s what makes it interesting for the reader. Imagine Superman and all his immense strength. Good conflict would involve a problem where no amount of strength helps. Maybe he is trying to win the love of Lois Lane, but the only way to impress her is playing the piano like Mozart.

French: Oh! So what you’re saying is, create a problem that’s opposite of my heroine’s strengths?

Brown: Pretty much! Maybe not completely the opposite like the example I gave above, but enough that she has to work for her happy ending. Give it a shot. Give me the first thing that comes to mind.

French: Okay, here it goes: my heroine is a single woman who is an only child that was bullied in her earlier years. She does not understand children at all, nor people in general.

Brown: Good! That’s a descent start. So what’s the conflict?

French: She finds a basket of kittens at her door and has to raise them.

Brown: Well, you CAN do that, but with the setup you gave me earlier, I feel you can do better. Create a plot that revolves around children, since you mentioned children more than anything else. Take your time, dig deep, and find something unique that would make your heroine stand out if she did it.

French: Okay. A friend begs her to be the new financial manager for America’s biggest orphan charity. With the economy on its back, the charity is barely able to hang on as donations are drying up. My heroine is in no position to understand what kids need and don’t need, but if she turns the charity away, they will go broke and many orphans will suffer on the streets.

Brown: Yes! Exactly! You did several things there: first, you forced her into a job she would not typically get, aka helping children. Next, you’re giving your heroine a chance to prove her heroism by taking on a hard task that many normal people wouldn’t be able to handle. Finally, accidentally or not, you just gave your heroine more description than she had before. She is smart, mathematically solid, and probably has a master’s degree or better in business, or else there’s no way she’d qualify for the job. If she really existed and pulled it off, I’m almost certain she’d get a lot of press for her effort.

French: Does that mean I’m ready to write?

Brown: Not yet. You haven’t dug into your heroine’s personality. Just how reluctant is your heroine to take on this job? Does she just take it with open arms, or are there deeper problems that cause her to hesitate at first?

French: She hesitates, right? Hesitates big time. Maybe… just looking at children causes some kind of mental problem. She lives in the past and it’s hard for her to forget the past to save the kids.

Brown: She blames the orphans she’s supposed to help for what kids did to her in her childhood.

French: Wouldn’t that make her a big jerk and not a heroine?

Brown: No. Think about it: the reader will know she doesn’t REALLY blame the kids, it’s just some problem she has to get over. Your heroine doesn’t have to start perfect. Let her grow past her problems and create solutions instead. Once she sets her condition behind her, then she blossoms into a stronger human being that solves the problem once and for all.

French: I like it, but that’s a LOT to take in. I’m supposed to write this short story at around a thousand words. How do I fit it all in?

Brown: Start with all the important details and work your way from there. Don’t worry about telling us how the neighbor’s goat chews through your heroine’s garden every other morning. That has nothing to do with the kids, interesting as it may sound. Focus on what matters, and you should hit a thousand words. Depending on how much you like to write, you may finish with much fewer than 1000 words. Don’t forget to edit your story to help make it better, and you’ll be on your way!

French: You make it sound so easy!

Brown: If you choose to write more after this project, you may find it easy too one day. It just takes practice. If everyone were good at writing heroes, heroes wouldn’t seem too interesting. It’s your job to prove to us the readers that your heroine is the most amazing heroine on earth. Think you can handle it?

French: I believe I can, J.K. Brown. Thank you for your official help on my project and taking the time out of your schedule to create this reference for me!

Brown: My pleasure, Miss French. Good luck!

Depending on how well this student does, I may write a second part that focuses on her short story after she has written it. She’s supposedly waiting on me to publish the interview online to complete her references, so hopefully it won’t take too long for that follow-up.

A big thank you to my readers for trusting me with questions about how to write. I truly am honored and would happily do this again if time allows! Thank you for your time!