Character Development: Using the Combination of Lack and Compensation – Part I

Your Character wants Somethingbullseye

In order for your character to move under his own steam (or her – don’t want to get bogged down in a pronoun pickle), he must want something. He wants something but cannot have it.  You as the god-creator of this novel will create this desire within your character.

(And to solve the pronoun pickle, I’m going to name my character, Seth. So there!)

  • Why can’t Seth have what he’s after?
  • Or why can’t he get it?
  • Or why can’t he accomplish the goal?
  • Or why can’t he hit the bullseye?

Discontentment Leads to Action

He cannot because he is inadequate in some area. Or he feels he is inadequate. The inadequacy leads him to believe he is less-than. Now he becomes restless, unhappy, ill at ease, discontented.

What’s Seth going to do about this? Ah, the perfect setup. He is now forced to compensate for what he lacks.

Lack – Compensation Pattern

The combination of lack and compensation comes into play as you plot the novel. This combination works to move the character into a natural flow of action.

To relieve the tension, Seth is going to take action. Is it the best action in light of the situation at hand? Perhaps; perhaps not.

Be A Novelist We’ve All Done This…

Think of how people do this in the real world.

  • His wife nags so he works overtime to stay away
  • He lost the promotion so he quits the job
  • His finances are in shambles so he heads to the casino

In other words one kind of behavior is substituted for another. (If we’re honest we’ve all done this at one time or another.) Seth is looking to achieve some semblance of personal victories.

The need to control his own destiny, to gain a feeling of adequacy, is what gives him drive, motivational force, and direction.  Seth is convinced that once he attains his goal(s), the feeling of inadequacy will leave and not return.

Actions Will Flow

This inner need for fulfillment and accomplishment is a compelling force. Once you set up the situation in the initial plotting and character-building, the character’s actions will flow more naturally. It will make sense that the character will do this or that, because he is seeking to fill that void – that sense of not being adequate.Be A Novelist

The lack – compensation pattern is a solid structure to build upon when learning to plot.

In my next post, we’ll go into this plotting technique in more detail.

Photo Credits: © | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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Coming Soon

The first two titles in the Norma Jean Lutz Classic Collection will be available in print form.

Flower in the Hills and Tiger Beetle at Kendallwood will soon be in bound copies.

Watch for upcoming announcements. 

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Norma Jean Lutz

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