When trying to put the idea together of this particular article in my head, I had to be careful to steer clear of the whole idea and philosophy of ‘determinism’ and ‘free will’, hehehe…which is an entire novel’s worth of intellectual discussion that would probably exhaust all of us before I even BEGIN to scratch the surface of the point that I want to make here in terms of our skills as writers, and crafting a story of our very own. Simultaneously using one side of the argument while giving the illusion of the other.

Basically…the Cliff’s Notes version deals with the idea of whether or not we truly have the blessing of ‘free will’ in our lives, or simply the illusion of free will through social dogma and an uncanny sense of optimism. Hehehe! And, just reading what you’ve read so far…you may be wondering how the hell ‘Comsie’ is going to somehow weave this into a lesson about writing online fiction! Well, be patient! I’m getting to that! And, for many of you writers out there who may be getting mediocre or somewhat lackluster responses to your work…the following lessons may actually help you to create a more engaging story for your readers to absorb and invest themselves into along the way.

The big question this time around, folks? Who’s in charge here?

Trust me…it matters.

See…when you’re writing a story, you are actually taking on the divine role of a creator. From beginning to end. You already know what’s going to happen, and you’ve planned out all of the events in advance. Your main characters don’t have any say in how things turn out, because it’s your personal magic that’s pushing this master game plan forward and guiding things the way that you want them to go. You’re the one in control. But it’s your duty as an author to simply operate behind the scenes to hide your influence and allow your audience to become so involved in the trials and tribulations of your characters that you remain somewhat ‘invisible’ when it comes to being the architect of every event you carry them through until the story is over. Does that make sense?

The illusion of giving your characters free will and a choice over what’s going to happen next is key when it comes to writing an engaging story. But…not everybody really thinks of a ‘story’ in those terms. And that’s where some authors can find themselves falling into a state of subtle limbo that doesn’t feel wrong…but can end up draining all of the interest out of your story in the long run. Sometimes, even in the short run.

Let me explain…

There is one, sure fire, way to completely bore your readers with you’re writing. You may not realize it, and even the readers won’t realize it right away…but here it is. You ready?

Do NOT let your story drag your protagonist along its journey from beginning to end! Just…don’t do it! It can become mind-numbing to a reader. No matter the premise, or the plot, or the concept…always remember the ‘pro’ in your ‘protagonist’. He/She is in charge. Establish that early on, and stick with it. It will help soooo much if you manage to keep an eye on this sort of this thing while you’re writing.

The one thing that can bring a story down from its true potential is having your main character, the sole focus of your amazing tale of drama/romance/adventure…being led around by a faceless, disembodied, storyline. Dragging them from one even to another without the main character’s involvement in what’s actually going on. Now, I don’t want anyone to take any offense to me saying that, as there is a delicate balance that can be worked in to maintain some sort of mystery and tension, while still keeping your protagonist the highlight of your project. However…I’ve seen that balance ruined many many times in the past. Not just in other writers’ work, but also in my own. So I’m leaving this little landmine as a warning for you guys to avoid in the future.

Hmmmm…how to better explain this…

When you create a main character for your particular story…you want your readers to sincerely believe that they have some say in how this particular story is going to turn out in the end. Of course…you’re the author…the architect…hehehe, and what your readers believe or don’t believe ultimately have no impact on the end of your story at all (Unless you want it too)…but that’s not a part of the illusion, is it? The whole point is to make your audience feel as though your protagonist is actively fighting for the best possible outcome…whether they’re able to achieve that in the end or not. You want your writing to put them, center stage, as often as humanly possible.

This is one of those moments where I reveal one of my hidden little ‘Comsie Secrets’ when I’m writing, hehehe!

If you look over a vast majority of my stories on the site, you’ll see my writing constantly playing around with the exact balance that I’m talking about here. The idea that there’s some outside force that’s controlling the actions and reactions of the main character, where he feels helpless to escape it. A sense of fate. Things that were meant to be, or not meant to be, that are clearly out of his control…because the divine writer of his narrative is the one running the show outside of his consent. This can be clearly seen stories like, “My Only Escape”, “Save Or Sacrifice”, “On The Outside”, and more. And by the time we get into stories like “Billy Chase”, “Gone From Daylight”, and “Savage Moon”…my methods of wobbling back and forth over that precious line become more clear. There’s an idea that ‘it’s not my fault’, and that there’s something going on that’s beyond my control. What did you expect me to do?

Here’s the gem in walking that line though. Your main characters become stronger and more interesting when they finally begin to question that particular ‘formula’ and begin to work against it. THAT makes for an exciting story! No matter what genre you happen to be writing in. Fighting against that ‘fate’ and growing to a point where you feel capable of challenging the design that was laid out for you without you having any say in it.

Let’s face it…the days of ‘boy meets boy’ are pretty much over and done with. Too simple. Too easy. Too predictable. Hehehe, it won’t be considered a ‘party foul’ if you write a story like that from time to time for fun…but if you’re looking to stand out, you’ll need more.

In all of the linked stories that I mentioned above…if you haven’t read any of them yet, just jump in at any random point and check out a few pages when you get a chance. There are going to be times when I allow the story to pull the main characters into situations and present certain obstacles and dangers along the way…but I try hard to keep the story from controlling everything going on around it. No…that’s what the protagonist is for. Your protagonist needs to be an active participant in what’s going on here. Don’t sideline him by giving the situations in his path drag him from one ‘non-decision’ to the next. It’s hard to explain, but it makes for a really boring story in the long run. “Why did he do this?” Answer? “Because the story told him he had to.” Well, after two or three instances of that being used as an excuse…that gets old. Really fast.

Have your protagonist make conscious decisions about he wants to proceed to the next part of his journey. Don’t leave him ten steps behind throughout the whole story and deprive your audience from ever feeling like he was in control of his own destiny from the very beginning. It’s literary suicide.

Most of my characters start out this way…feeling at the mercy of a greater plan that is, obviously, not conspiring in their favor. And that leads to angst, frustration, paranoia, fear, and some truly naive and awkward decisions on their part. BUT…that’s where the fun part comes in! Because, most of my character arcs essentially come from those same characters questioning the design and deviating from the chosen path to explore something new. Something real. And this creates the feeling that your protagonist is actually the one in charge!

It’s something that your readers will appreciate and invest themselves in when diving into your story, full force. Nobody wants to read about things that are static and planned out and are ‘supposed’ to happen, no matter what. Be careful of stumbling into that pitfall as a writer. The most influential writers swim upstream.

But it can be fun to goof around with the whole ‘cliche fake out’ tropes from time to time too. Hehehe!

Anyway, always make sure that it’s your protagonist that’s pushing your story forward and not the other way around. Don’t leave your hero to be led around by the dick while the story basically tells your readers, “I can do this, with or without him being a part of this.” It diminishes the importance of your shining star. Give your main character something to do. Let him mold the story. Let his decisions have an impact. Otherwise…you’ve got a main character chasing butterflies for an entire narrative…and that can be a snooze fest.

Just a little something that I’ve learned from experience over the years. And hope to get better at correcting in the years to come.

I hope this helps! Take care! And I’ll seezya soon!

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