Welcome to the first Blogging from A to Z challenge post! We start our series with the reason most stories exist – character agency.
Great, now my characters need an agent too. Not so, aspiring writer (and for the record, you may not need one either, but we’ll save that for a different post).
Simply put, character agency is how your character earns his keep in the story. Characters need motivations and goals – mash those together and you have agency. When you see the word “must” in a blurb – as in, Now, he must stop the wildebeest from stealing his mother’s earrings – odds are the character has strong agency. The character does things that directly affect, if not cause, the plot.
Chuck Wendig says this in his post on this topic:
Character agency is, to me, a demonstration of the character’s ability to make decisions and affect the story. This character has motivations all her own. She is active more than she is reactive.
As I begin brainstorming a story, I am often guilty of letting the plot happen to or around my characters instead of by them, and I have to consciously make sure they are getting their hands dirty. I ask myself this question: If I pull my character out of the story, does that destroy the plot? If the answer is no, I know they need more agency.
Katniss had to fight in the Hunger Games. Harry had to train to be a wizard. Minny did that thing with the pie. If the characters hadn’t done these things, the stories (if they could exist) would have been much different.
How do characters in your favorite stories show agency? In what ways do the characters you’re writing show it?