Anyone writing stories NEEDS to read the blog post by Chuck Wendig listed below!
Seriously. Please read this!
His pivotal point: “The story exists because of the character. The character does not exist because of the story.”
Too often, I read screenplays where the protagonist is merely swept along like a bobbing cork on a sea of conflict. They merely REACT to the injustice around them rather than ACT to change it. They are the victim of the story.
To my mind, a much more interesting character is one who takes action when presented with conflict and then deals with the repercussions of that action. In some stories (the best ones to my mind), the protagonist is his or her own worst enemy, bringing conflict upon him or herself.
It is not enough to chase your hero up a tree and then throw rocks at him. He can also catch some of the rocks and throw them back, perhaps hitting innocent bystanders who then turn on him as well.
As a reader and viewer, it is through the actions of your characters that we learn their perspectives, their world views, and thus, their flaws. And if your story has a redemptive angle, it is through the complete failure of this world view and the character’s re-evaluation of it that he or she is reborn.
Just like giving the same premise to 12 writers results in 12 different stories, placing any of 12 different characters into the identical situation with identical opponents will result in 12 different outcomes if the characters are real.
Honour that in your writing and honour your characters.
They are called char-ACT-ers, after all, not char-REACT-ers.
Wendig is on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChuckWendig