Weekend Workout: What is The Thing?

During the week, to prepare for Weekend Workout, I pay attention to my own writing practices in order to come up with the The Thing that will trigger inspiration, a new idea, and a way to move our work forward. Something expansive.

The Thing for your main character functions in kind of the opposite way. The Thing for them is what drives them deeper into themselves. It’s a kind of motivation, but a self-destructive one.

By Michael Vincent Malano (click for link to more work)

We are all self-destructive on some level. Not necessarily in a Leaving Las Vegas kind of way, but self-destructive none-the-less. We’ve sabotaged our relationships our careers our dreams. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we can admit it and see that it’s The Thing for us. We fear The Thing.

In fiction writing, The Thing grows from what we call The Wound. The Wound that shapes your protagonist’s life. It’s why she’s angry or bitter or doesn’t allow people to get close to her or why she doesn’t believe in herself, etc, etc, etc.

Too often (mostly in YA fiction), I find one-dimensional protagonists. They act like the walking wounded, but it’s as if the author knows she’s supposed to make a character act this way. There’s a thin backstory and presto, our bitter loner teenager appears and does bitter loner teenager things. Then what’s supposed to happen happens and presto, she’s a new person! It’s very unsatisfying and feels inauthentic.

This Wound needs to be an organic part of your character, something she carries around with her the entire story until the climax, where she either addresses The Thing head on, or self-destructs. Addressing The Thing is called Redemption.

Myself, I like happy endings, or at least bitter-sweet, so Redemption feels good to me. This has nothing to do with whether the boy gets the girl, the girl gets the grail, or vice-versa. Your protagonists can lose the race and still be redeemed.

One of my critique partners took a look at Intergalactic and said the opening was a bit bombastic. I had piled on too much of my imaginary worldness without establishing my character’s THING first. It was hard to care about her right away.

IdoLL pretends she’s more confident than she is. She pretends she doesn’t need anyone. She pretends she’s cool and collected. In public, that is. Behind the scenes, we see her little breakdowns. Through some thinking and writing I discovered that The Thing for her is that she’s afraid of being abandoned and afraid of being alone.

And this stems from her Wound, which wasn’t some big tragic event. It was simply that her activist parents were so busy fighting for AIP rights (that’s Artificially Intelligent Peoples) that she felt neglected, abandoned, and unloved.

What is the Wound that shaped your protags life? How does this Wound show up in his or her story? How has This Thing become self-destructive? And how does he or she face The Thing at the climax?


Set your timer for 5 minutes. Start at the top of the page with the following startline: The Wound that shaped my protagonist’s life was formed when . . .

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

When the timer stops, Set your timer for 7 more minutes. Start with the following line: The Thing that destroys my protagonists dreams must be faced or else . . .

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

When the timer stops, Set your timer for 10 more minutes. Start with the following line: My protagonist will be redeemed when . . .

Write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

Read your exercises, make notes, highlight what makes sense.

Have a Great Weekend!


  1. Jack Remick
    Jan 28, 2012

    All good ideas and start lines, Danika.

  2. Thanks, Jack!

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