Fighting The Giant in Fiction

Hello readers & authors, Kris Kennedy here, welcoming you to SassyGirls Writing Life column, featuring tips & tricks for authors with a special bent for readers.  Take a peek inside what it’s like to write a story!

Characters are always fighting the giant.

You know the story of David and Goliath?  The underdog, the under-equipped, outmatched small guy going out to the fight the clearly dominant, stronger, more powerful opponent?

This is what Story is all about at its core. Fighting the giant.  Storming the castle. An under-equipped underdog going into the ring against a clearly dominant opponent and in doing so, transforming.

Okay, But What’s The Giant?

It’s the thing we have to fight but can never win against. It’s the thing that’s stronger than us. Bigger than us. It’ll always be more powerful than us. It’ll always win.

Until it doesn’t..

This is what turns a protagonist into a hero. They’re willing to go into the ring against a ‘giant.’

The ‘giant’ might be unconcerned with the characters (a vicious storm or other force of nature), maliciously intent on them (those villains we love to hate), or living inside them, eating away at them (old emotions and dysfunctional belief systems, or possibly alien pods).

There are all sorts of giants.

External Giants

This is the external plot, &/or the thing the character is pursuing (or avoiding!), &/or the social world of your protagonist(s), &/or the adversaries they’re going to have to face down.

It’s the scary or she-did-what?? thing they’re going to have to DO by the end of the book, to truly change.

It can be anything, it just needs to be something.

Vetoing Secret Santa can be a transformative act if done right.

But external giants are really just a symbol of the bigger, scarier giant that lurks within.

Internal Giants

The worst giant is the one in our characters’ inner world. This is the REAL battle.

It’s their deepest fear, the inner hurt or need or emotion they’ve spent their whole life avoiding (or trying to fulfill in bass-ackwards ways), and all the core beliefs associated with those fears and hurts.

Those core beliefs have propelled them through their life, right up to page one of the story.

These ‘starter pack’ beliefs might even have worked out pretty good for them up until Page One–maybe made them über-successful, or saved their arse a few (hundred) times—but whatever, dude. Not anymore. The old way isn’t good enough for Story.

Characters are here to transform.

Story is there to force them to do it.

Because who wants to face their biggest fear or deepest hurt??? Nope. That’s why we have authors.

Forcing characters to go into the metaphoric ring against an inner & outer giant is a nice, juicy kind of torture.

Tbh, that’s probably the main reason we even invented authors. To torture fictional characters.

Authors, if you’re stuck on your story, or need to find the deep core of what makes your characters tick & tock, try seeing your characters in this frame, and see what happens.

What was your hero most hurt by in the past? How can the story force them to face it?

What’s your heroine’s deepest fear? How can you strip away the trappings she thinks are keeping her safe, and force her to face it head on?

Readers, maybe you’ll see this framework in the next story you read. And know that we authors are out there, fighting the good fight for you (well, we’re actually making our characters do it. That’s authors for you: always taking one for the team).

We’re putting our heroes & heroines into the ring to face their greatest fears and deepest hurts & win one for all of us.

About Kris

USA Today bestselling author Kris Kennedy writes historical and contemporary romance.

She also does story consults & developmental editing, & has a free newsletter with writing tips and tricks for romance writers—but it’s great for all genres!

You can find her website here:

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