How to understand the secrets that bend a life

Ding, Ding, Ding!

That was a bell going off in my head after I read a recent post on Writers Helping Writers.

I’ve read many books and blogs on writing. Lots of them talk about understanding what makes the protagonist tick. What secret from their past bent their life?

After all, we are all a product of our environment. Right? Well, our characters are just like us. They too are bent by their childhood, relationships and traumas. But how do you show that? By figuring out what made them the way they are.

I know it sounds about as easy as becoming a rocket scientist. But stay with me.

This post below gave me insight into how to uncover secrets about my protagonist but, most important how to use them to tell her story.

Lisa Cron gives 3 simple steps to help us break down our main character’s beliefs. So I took those steps and this is what I did. Be sure and click on the link below, read Ms. Cron’s article for

So after following her steps I had a breakthrough with my WIP. Here is a brief glimpse of how I used her 3 step method.

  • #1: I sat down and thought about something she believed that could be wrong. When did this belief start? What happened to make her believe this way? How has this belief led to problems? Have her beliefs proved false?
  • #2: Jotted down times when her beliefs led her astray. When they tangled up her life and how I could incorporate these events into the story.
  • #3: Then I wrote a short scene that started her on her road to believing and behaving the way she does. (Now I doubt I will use this scene in its entirety but bits and pieces may show up in other scenes. What it did do was help me flesh out my protagonist.)

Be sure and click on the link at the bottom of this post and read Ms. Cron’s article for the entire picture. You’ll be glad you did. 

So tell, what did you think about beliefs and misbeliefs?

Does your protagonist have secrets you need to uncover?

In the post Become a Story Genius: How Your Character’s Misbelief Drives The Plot by ANGELA ACKERMAN welcomed story coach Lisa Cron to talk about new book, Story Genius and how defining the why behind this struggle is the key to unlocking a powerful story. 

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by [Cron, Lisa]
Click Image for Sample Read
 I’d love to hear from you! Click the “write me” tab or contact me on Twitter @jeancogdell,Facebook at jean.cogdell and Amazon.com, stop by and say hey! The lights are on, and I’m waiting.

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16 thoughts on “How to understand the secrets that bend a life

  1. The book sounds perfect. I wasn’t familiar with Lisa so thank you. I’ve been turning to Angela and Becca and their plethora of books and useful information every time I get stuck with a character or setting issue. I like how you’ve broken the secret and what made the character who they are down into such easy to follow steps. I used this process on my villain in my current WIP to make her more believable. I didn’t want her to come off as just crazy or mean or cruel for no apparent reason, so I’ve given her a secret and a wound from her past. It doesn’t justify her actions, but it makes her motivation more believable to the readers. Have you checked out Angela’a One Stop Shop help for Writers site?

    Liked by 1 person

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