By Lewis W. J.

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It's tricky. Fiction has little impact when it is timid, cliche ridden, uneventful, and formulaic. The same is true of characters. Stereotypes have little impact. They fail to engage us because we don't believe in them. Great characters are especially prone to this problem. If you create someone who is made of goodness, lives by high principles, performs actions of high valor, and is pretty much perfect, then your readers' reaction is likely to be a sneering yeah, right! Fortunately, you don't have to create a paragon in order to conjure greatness.

Your readers will bond with both. CUTTING HEROES DOWN TO SIZE We have been looking at how to quickly show what is heroic in protagonists who aren't. What about protagonists who are heroic? If your protagonist is strong, do-right, active, principled, and upstanding, then you don't have an issue, right? Wrong. Genuine heroes present as big a challenge, in their way, as downers. Heroes or heroines who are noble and true can easily become cardboard. Think of feisty romance heroines, hard-boiled detectives, save-the-world suspense heroes, fantasy orphan-princes, sassy vampire slayers ...

But how? Palahniuk takes a bold approach: If you're going to read this, don't bother. After a couple of pages, you won't want to be here. So forget it. Go away. Get out while you're still in one piece. Save yourself. There has to be something better on television. Or since you have so much time on your hands, maybe you could take a night course. Become a doctor. You could make something of yourself. Treat yourself to a dinner out. Color your hair. You're not getting any younger. What happens here is first going to piss you off.

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