Heraclitus believed that a person’s character is their fate. Character -- the sum total of a person’s traits -- influences the choices a person makes, and the consequences of those choices ultimately become that person’s destiny. Or not. Much of life is luck, happenstance, and totally out of our control, though we tend to believe we have much more control over our lives than we really do. But that’s not an issue here because this is a writing discussion, and in our story worlds everything is under our control, and what our characters do determine their own fate.
This is most obvious in a tragedy -- a character comes to an unhappy end because of a flaw in his or her own character, though in today’s stories, because readers like a more optimistic ending, that fatal flaw is often balanced by a special strength. But character/fate works for other types of stories, such as a thriller where a character becomes obsessed with finding the truth, and that obsession leads to both the character's fate and the end of the story.
For example, In Daughter Am I, a young woman is determined to find out the truth of who her grandparents were and why someone wanted them dead. That determination overrides her usual placidity and takes her on a journey that eventually leads her home again, changed forever. She really did find her destiny because of her character.
So, how does your character’s character determine his or her fate and ultimately the plot of your story?
As always, any topic that will help us improve our writing is fair game in these discussions.
The group No Whine, Just Champagne will meet here at this article for a live discussion about writing and the writing life on Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 9:00pm ET. I hope you will stop by -- it would be nice to see you.