Plot & Structure Exercise 28: Paint Your Lead at Start and Finish

(Image from Reedsy’s Character Development Exercises post.)


Write a short profile of your Lead character’s personality at the beginning of the plot. Describe his Beliefs, Values, Dominant Attitudes, Opinions. Now ask what will happen in the course of the plot to change or challenge these elements.


Juan Saudade is an early twentysomething trapped in a late thirtysomething’s body. Overlooked aches, pains, a growing belly, and an ignored dentist appointment just prove that he isn’t aware of himself. To him, in the best of light, you do not stop playing when you get old, but you get old when you stop playing. He believes in his innate talent. But also it feels like the outside world has screwed him. He values monogamy. But also sex on the side. In a word, he is split. But his dominant attitude is that he is aligned, that he knows himself when he doesn’t, since he rationalizes everything to himself. Sadly, his opinion is that his best days are behind him, while his darkest are just ahead.


During the course of the novel, there will be an inner examination from opinion to beliefs, leading to a rupture-shift in his Self-Image. He will see himself as he is. Only then, will his layers from the inside-out begin to improve. Ending with the opinion that life has in store another adventure for him — when he takes the flight.


Specifically, at first we see his contradictions are erroneous (life is not as bad as it seems). But in the middle we come to understand how he became the way that he is (his past really did rock). By the third act, I would like to have us cheering for his ultimate alignment, despite the challenges (he has to grow up, people depend on him).


For example, his personal and professional life are crumbling at the beginning, directly related to his inability to grow up, let go of the past, and mature. His wife doesn’t want to have children with him because he is a slob and he sleeps around. His university denied him tenure because he stopped publishing. Etc.


His friend shows up as a wake up call, but also as a plea for him apologize for ruining their friendship. Juan blames his friend for it, actually. Though part of him knows he isn’t being fully honest. So they tell the story. Realizing where in their self-narrative they have gotten things wrong.


By telling the story, that is the truth, we see just how reckless Juan was, but also how beautiful in its naivete and carelessness he had been. In addition to the negative things, his friend will remind him of the positive. Like saving a boy’s life in Indonesia. Helping the mafia recover some missing money, thereby saving a village from massacre. And stopping someone from committing suicide in Osaka.


Basically, in the beginning:


Self-Image – mediocre has-been

Belief – I’m good, but I cannot improve; I’m not old, but older

Values – Optimism, Growth, Selflessness

Dominant Attitudes – I married the wrong person, I ruined things with my friend

Opinion – the best of life is behind me



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