How to Write your Pivotal Characters

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Pivotal Character:

The respected teacher, Lagos Egri writes about the importance of the pivotal character in your story.

Although Egri may have seen this character apart from the protagonist or antagonist, I believe this type is one which encapsulates the traits described below.

This character may appear in one of several guises, and may appear as the antagonist, protagonist, love interest, sidekick, mentor, and so on. In determining who is to be the pivotal character in your story, decide who will force your characters into action.

The pivotal character forces the conflict from beginning to end. He is the motivating power, the cause of conflict in your story—the driving engine of all stories. He experiences no doubt within himself about his course of action and knows immediately what he wants. Othello’s Iago is such a character. His function is to force the conflict to the bitter end, never backing down. He is relentless because circumstances beyond his control force him to be so. If an honest man steals, it’s not for excitement or gain, but because his family is starving, or he needs money for an operation for his child.

Whatever the reason, it must be an overpowering one. If the pivotal character stops forcing the conflict, the story skids to a halt. The pivotal character usually seeks change because he’s dissatisfied. She aggressively and relentlessly tries either to change or to maintain her status quo. A well-crafted pivotal character holds nothing sacred and feels that nothing can prevent her from reaching her goal.

The pivotal character knows where he’s going, and tries to bend everyone to go his will. If the antagonist refuses to go along with him, therefore, it’s not because the pivotal character didn’t push him hard enough. The pivotal character is an obsessively focused individual who sees only his own goal. He is reactionary, militant and passionate. This applies to good men or women as well as it does to criminals.

Here are some characteristics that make for fine pivotal characters:

Someone who wants revenge on the man who ran away with his wife.

Someone who loves a woman madly but must make money first to marry her.

Someone who is willing to give his life for his country, which he loves more than anything.

Someone who is greedy. His greed sprang from poverty and he exploits others because he fears hunger.

Someone who will stop at nothing and will destroy others to achieve his goal.

Someone who desperately and obsessively wants to achieve success in a specific job or profession and will stop at nothing to achieve that goal.

Summary

The pivotal character in your story (who can be drawn from one of several types—protagonist, antagonist, love interest, mentor), is the character who forces others into action and drives the story forward.

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4 thoughts on “How to Write your Pivotal Characters

  1. Vimz

    Would you say that the ring is a pivotal character? It does have a personality of its own that tends to try and take over Frodo and without the ring would there be no Fellowship of The Ring or no reason for Gandalf to guide The Fellowship on the journey to destroy the Ring.

    Reply
    1. Stavros Halvatzis Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Vintz. I think it would be pushing it a bit. The ring is the maguffin, in Hitchcock’s parlance, a plot device introduced to provide the outer goal.

      Reply
  2. Riaan

    So, for example, the pivotal character in The Lord of The Rings would be Frodo, correct? Especially since he offered to be the ring bearer, which caused them to form the Fellowship of The Ring and lead to an epic adventure and so on…

    Reply
    1. Stavros Halvatzis Post author

      The pivotal character is the one who relentlessly spurs and directs the course of action. Wouldn’t you say that Gandalf is another candidate?

      Reply

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