So I'm still working away on my lead character, Alex.
Finding contrasts in his character are easy. Naive but highly educated. Cowardly but brave. A dreamer but a realist. And lots more. It helps because he's a bit unstable anyway so you are soon on a roll.
The hard part is identifying the theme. You've really got to dig into your story and cut out all the superficial stuff. I suppose if I really had a handle on it the theme would jump out at me. So I'm tackling it by negating the negation.
I'm finding what I think is the theme, then what is the positive of it, the negative, in between and the absolute extreme worse (NotN). I then look to see if these are in the story. I keep on doing it until I'm sure I've pinned it down.
Our tutor, Karen Bird, has chucked lots of good examples at us. I've given one of them here. If the theme is letting go then the positive is letting go of someone (of course), the negative is holding on, the intermediate is the relationship and the NotN is for someone to be taken away.
So it is the NotN that makes it a really satisfying story. I had a go at applying it below. Harder than I thought to write one rather than check one. Option A only uses three of the four. Option B uses the lot. Which do you prefer?
Sally has a teenage daughter, May. May wants to go out with her friends in the evenings but Sally is scared she will get hurt. It's a bad world out there. So she makes her come home straight from college and she is not allowed out on her own.
May sneaks out at night and goes drinking with her friends. Sally discovers her out of her head one morning. She forces her to rehab. Finally,with Sally's support, May is clean and ready to start a new life. But it needs Sally to trust her and let her live it. Sally is scared it will all happen again but realises she has to trust May and so lets her go.
May sneaks out at night and encounters a pusher. She never makes it home. Sally has to search long and hard but finds her on the streets prostituting to feed her habit. She gets May out and supports her recovery from the drugs and psychological damage. Finally May is clean and ready to start a new life. But it needs Sally to trust her and let her live it. Sally is scared it will all happen again but realises she has to trust May and so lets her go.
Both read like TV movies but I'd rather watch B than A. Sally isn't just struggling to keep May, she has her taken away and has to find her. Sally and May have been pushed to the limit. And that final act of trust puts more at risk in B than A.
Of course I may not have applied it all correctly because it's my first go. Still I'm going to master it if it kills me.