Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Confidence Tricks

I have to admit that I have got sucked in to the current series of The Biggest Loser. I'm not sure why, but I think it's the people! While I enjoy transformation stories (can't stand novels or films where the main character never learns anything and stays the same), this has become more than just the potential of each person to achieve weight loss. Every time one of them opens their mouth, I'm watching their face and listening to the tone of their voice to work out what they are really saying. There's a fair bit of fibbing going on, I think! When the young guy came out and said a few snarky things last night and then laughed, I laughed too, just because he was being genuine.

Also, in last night's episode, the Blue team was given a really hard time by the Commando, leading to one person suddenly losing all their confidence and growing self-respect. Yet, another in the team came out of the really tough session overjoyed that she had won through and survived. Two completely different reactions to the same thing! I keep making mental notes about how I can use all of this in my fiction writing, because of course no two characters will, or should, react in the same way to the same thing.

How much self-confidence a character has says a lot about how they view themselves, how they see the world, how they will react to events and disasters, how they will tackle problems. In today's society, weight has become a huge issue - it's as if it overshadows everything about who a person really is. Even being too slim is liable to get you criticised. Your body weight starts to define you - if you let it. But it's so hard not to. You're battling the whole world, it feels like.

One of my favourite things about The Big Loser is that when someone is voted out, the producers follow up a couple of months later to see how they're going. The two so far have both come out vowing to keep up what they've gained - not so much the weight loss but the feeling of a healthy body and the knowledge that they can exercise and they can achieve what they want. On their own.

Is your character that tough? Probably not at the beginning of the story. In class yesterday, we talked a little bit about the middle of a story. After you've got off to a roaring start, and you know more or less what your ending might be, you are facing the middle - the place where your story might sag. Yet if what is happening in the middle is that your character is gaining what they need to win through, that's fertile ground to cover. What doesn't kill me will only make me stronger. It's a familiar saying, but in your story, that's what your character is doing. Gaining confidence, growing, learning new skills, gaining strength (inner and outer), overcoming many obstacles. You just have to make sure you're really testing them, really making them grow, rather than letting them off too easy!

1 comment:

Kristi Holl said...

I've never seen the show you talked about, but the need to show character growth and development in your books is so true--and so important. The middle that often sags is the perfect place to put the character through difficult times and tests and see them grow. (Not perfectly--none of us grow in a straight line upward.) But with some successes and occasional failures, the reader needs to see the character change by degrees. The only thing worse than a main character who doesn't change at all during a book is one that is snarky or stupid right up to the last page, and then suddenly dons a halo to end the story. Argh!