Are You Feeding Your Characters Enough Broccoli?

Kids have been finding ways to hide their broccoli and other green vegetables for as long as we’ve been buying them. There is nothing worse than stepping on a cold mushy green as you clear the table, or finding a mangled bite under their plate.

Still, they keep trying to feed them to the dog or fleece us with another of their amazing ideas like hiding it in their milk cup until they can dump it without detection. I’ve been to the dark side of the green war and back. Let me tell you, if it wasn’t so important I’d start flying my white flag.

What about your characters? Are you feeding them enough broccoli? You may be thinking I’ve just crossed over from the gray line between sane and certifiable.

No, I don’t want you to go to the kitchen, get your spoon and head to your computer with some greens. I’m not THAT crazy.

Your characters need healthy challenges that they must face. Things that are difficult and require a conscious choice to do what is right. These moments always cost them in the story and bring about new conflict. Most importantly, it helps us as readers relate to them.

These healthy challenges also push them towards a character change. So what is the difference between a healthy challenge and a conflict that arises in the story? By healthy challenges, I mean challenges that impact integrity and challenge us to be stronger Christians.

Story Conflict Example: The thief has stolen the keys to your house. Now you must change all the locks and be careful because he is watching you.

Healthy Challenge Example: A family member that you haven’t spoken to in two years has developed terminal cancer and wants to see you. The last time you saw them they treated you terribly. This is a moment when you must decide to take the high road and visit them. It may cause additional chaos and make other people angry at you, but it is the healthy choice. It will build character in your life.

Both of these elements are key to a solid character and plot. Story conflict is more external and pushes the story forward. Healthy Challenges can be external or internal, but they provide internal conflict that allows the character to grow.

If you lack Story Conflict, you will struggle with a sagging middle and lack of drive to find a happy ending. If you lack healthy challenges, you will miss some of the depth your story could have and a deeper character change.

What are some examples of healthy challenges you have given your characters, or faced in your own life?

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About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

4 thoughts on “Are You Feeding Your Characters Enough Broccoli?

  1. Michelle,
    You are so creative!
    When I start reading your stories I wonder, “How is she going to tie this together with writing?” Then I’m there. You lead me right in every time.
    Your stashing-the-broccoli examples cracked me up. They brought back childhood memories of my own. I used to pretend to cough in my napkin, spit out the disgusting stuff (for me it was meat) and wad it in my napkin. I’d politely set it in my lap until it was time to put my dish in the sink and throw away the garbage.

    Healthy challenges in my current wip: Willow has to decide if it’s better to obey her parents or listen to what God wants her to do.

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Ginger R. Takamiya says:

    As always, a wonderful, thought provoking post. You should post links to this blog on my FB page as well. I would definitely promote this blog 🙂

  3. Michelle Lim says:

    Thank you, Ginger! I appreciate the invitation. I would love to do that.

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