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Finding Your Character’s Blind Spot

Please welcome back today’s guest, DiAnn Mills!

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Mountainside Marketing Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

Connect with DiAnn on her website.

Find Your Character’s Blind Spot

Every character has a blind spot, an area where he is most vulnerable. Within that emotional darkness, he lacks understanding, ignores the situation, or is unaware of potential harm. Through a series of planned deceptions, the opposition successfully deceives and manipulates the character. The consequences are often devastating.

The opposition can be nature, another person, society, a psychological or physical limitation, or spiritual indoctrination.

Discovering a blind spot paves the way to uncovering the character’s behavior, and the knowledge becomes a valuable part of the story. These shortcomings aren’t limited to antagonists. Our protagonists can be resistant to lies, charm, or an intoxicating lure. Emotion often masks logic, disguising truth and reason.

To find a stumbling block, begin by searching the character’s backstory.

Backstory

Backstory is the character’s life experience that affects the character’s goals, conflicts, and desires before chapter one. The information lays the foundation for the character’s personality. From the moment the character is born, her reactions and responses to her life experiences shape her mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual landscape. A child models behavior from parents and caregivers. False perceptions give the child a ragged view of how to handle problems. As the child grows, teachers, peers, and media shape values, attitudes, behaviors, and determine what motivates or doesn’t motivate a character.

From the backstory, we learn how flaws and weaknesses often create mental barriers. The character who is conscious of these can choose to overcome them. The character who disregards them will eventually face the consequences.

Protagonists and antagonists with blind spots are similar in the following ways:

  •          Both are capable of being deceived.
  •          Both can become aware of their problems.
  •          Both can overcome their weaknesses.
  •          Both have choices.

The protagonist. Dealing with a blind spot is an opportunity for growth and change, either before or after the story begins. Sometimes realizing a blind spot is painful for a character, allowing the writer to create emotional tension that endears the reader to that character. These characters may become heroes and heroines.

Consider two scenarios:

  1. The protagonist was made aware of his weakness in the past. He overcame the problem. The character can now use this past experience to home in on other characters who have not reconciled with similar weak traits.
  2. The protagonist didn’t recognize the problem in the past, because other strengths masked and compensated for the weakness. Dealing with the unaddressed issue is imperative to the plot.

High stakes result if the opposition discovers the blind spot, decreasing the chances of the protagonist reaching his goal.

The Antagonist. Just like the protagonist, if the opposition discovers the barrier, the antagonist will not reach his goal, and this can be a method of stopping inappropriate actions. Consider two scenarios:

  1. The antagonist has never discovered his weakness. He covered any inadequacies with abilities to manipulate others that result in charm, wealth, or power.
  2. The antagonist refuses to address a frail part of his landscape. Arrogance overrules any desire to change.

Reveal the Blind Spots in Your Story

Six places to consider:

1. Characterization

A character’s experiences can point to vulnerable areas. You might show the character’s blind spot through goals, conflict, internal narration, and established traits.

2. Plot

Out of a character’s wants and needs emerges plot. A blind spot may develop in the midst of those wants and needs, adding stress, tension, and conflict to the storyline.

3. Emotion

The writer can point toward the blind spot when obvious emotional pain or dysfunction is apparent in a character. Consider the effect of self-blame, fear, shame, anger, confusion, denial, disbelief, mood swings, guilt, and depression.

4. Symbolism

While literary symbolism may become recognized by the reader, it may remain hidden from the character due to the blind spot, or gradually become apparent throughout the course of the novel.

5. Dialogue

While dialogue is fresh, new, and contains spirit, the words a character speaks reflect what occupies his mind. Consider how a mental barrier might translate to denial or avoidance in what a character says or doesn’t say.

6. Setting

A character who has a limited view of a setting may fail to comprehend the savagery with which that setting can turn against him. Consider how this blind spot can take him unaware, and force him to become resourceful.

Every character has a potential blind spot. It’s up to the writer to discover where and use the information to the story’s advantage.

How do you find your characters’ blind spots? What are your own blind spots as a writer?


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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.