Posted by: Phil Anderson | October 6, 2014

Characters in Training

In order to be truly successful at anything, you need to train for it. Preparation and practice are key elements of reaching almost any goal. This is true of everything from sports to academics, and even video games. But is it true of the characters that inhabit our stories?

Oftentimes characters are a product of their narrative. Every story needs a hero and a villain, and perhaps a love interest or a sidekick or someone to provide comic relief. So we create a person to fill that role. But if that’s all that person is, he’ll be weak and uninteresting. The answer to “Why is she like this?” has to more than “Because it fits the story.”

A relatable, sympathetic character has to have a backstory, events and experiences in their history that made them the way they are. Their parents, their friends, and their environment influence their personality. The things they’ve seen and done have an impact on what they will do and how they will react.

In addition to the backstory, a character also has to experience an arc. Someone who doesn’t learn or grow during an adventure is stagnant and uninteresting. He has to be a different person at the end than he was at the beginning.

Put simply, in order for a character to believably overcome adversity and triumph in a climactic struggle, they have to be trained, to be put through experiences and adversity that will mold them into the person they will become.

In the same way, each of us as a character in God’s story encounter difficulties and tests that, if we persevere, will make us into the person he wants us to be. When we face tough times it’s an opportunity to learn and to grow and to strengthen our fortitude. And if we struggle well, someday we will be able to look back and see how those challenges prepared us to achieve whatever it is we accomplish.

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