If you don’t want to limit your story to the relationships between characters, go for a big-picture theme. Consider writing the Character vs. Destiny plot line. Another of my favorites, this plot pits your main character against the abstract. At first glance, this plot seems similar to Character vs. Himself or Character vs. God, but the key difference is this: your character battles something he believes is beyond his control.
Can he make his own future, or is it already set? This is a common plot in speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy). For example:
- Luke Skywalker: is the dark side his destiny, or can he resist what his father couldn’t?
- Harry Potter: only he can defeat Lord Voldemort, so Harry must face him.
- Achan Cham, The Blood of Kings trilogy: the rightful king of Er’Rets, it’s up to him to reclaim his throne and save the kingdom.
This plot line also works in other genres. Your characters may not be born into a destiny, but they believe there is one controlling the outcome of their lives.
- The woman who refuses to marry because her grandmother, mother, aunts, and sisters have all ended up unhappily divorced – it’s her family destiny to get divorced
- The man who lives recklessly because every man in his family dies in his fifties due to heart disease – it’s his destiny to die early too, so he’ll enjoy every second before then
- The teen who doesn’t try to resist alcohol or drugs because her parent and siblings all use them – they’re a family of addicts, and there’s no escaping it
Regardless of when your character discovers his or her destiny, there are a few things to consider when writing the Character vs. Destiny plot.
- It’s not the same as Character vs. Himself or God. You character isn’t having a moral dilemma, and he’s not blaming God or looking for God to change his destiny. This character believes that his destiny is set. He needs to either fulfill it (or succumb to it) to be free from it.
- Your character cannot escape destiny. This is something he’s born into. Circumstances may change, but the birthright does not. (Some characters, like Bruce Wayne/Batman, discover their destiny rather than being born into it, but it’s still something they can’t avoid. Bruce Wayne can’t let people suffer knowing that he can help them, so he must become Batman.)
- There’s a final battle. At some point your main character needs to confront his destiny – he either destroys the evil, or evil destroys him.
- It’s a journey. Sometimes a romance novel will take place over the course of a few weeks. Some action/adventure stories happen in a few days. When your character takes on destiny, however, it’s a journey. Don’t expect to wrap things up by the weekend.
Unlike some of the previously discussed plots, Character vs. Destiny is a big-picture theme. You’re not looking at one instance in a person’s life. You want to put the panoramic lens on your camera and look at everything so your reader can see what your character is up against.
Can you think of a favorite Character vs. Destiny plot line? What do you like about it? Why?
Come back in two weeks to find out about Character vs. the Unknown!