If you read Prodigal every day, you know that we are committed to telling stories. In fact, you probably know that we believe good stories have the ability to change the world.
Here’s the thing. In order to tell a good story, first you have to be living one.
How do you do that? Good question.
The first thing a good story needs is a good character. A good character is what makes a good movie worth watching, or a good book impossible to put down. A good character is also what makes your life count for something. Think about someone you really admire, someone you want to be like. They are someone who is living as a good character in their life story.
So that begs the question: what does it take to be a good character?
Here are five ways to be a better character in your story:
1. A good character wants something greater than himself.
My friend Kevin McManus is planting a church in South Florida, for example. He moved his entire family from North Carolina, at a time that wasn’t even very convenient for him. It was the middle of summer in Florida and his wife was eight months pregnant.
You want to know why? Because he wants the people of South Florida to know Jesus.
Kevin left his big house, his good job, and his comfortable life, not because it was better for him, but because he knew his sacrifice would be meaningful.
If he had clung to the life that was most comfortable or convenient for him, he might have missed his opportunity to live a good story.
Are you embracing opportunities to live for something greater than yourself?
2. A good character is good — but not perfect — and he is okay with his imperfections.
I wrote an article a few weeks ago where I admitted that I lost control of my emotions and was really rude to a woman at my apartment complex.
It’s easy for me to be embarrassed about that story, to want to hide that part of myself, because it actually is really embarrassing that I would act that way.
We all have imperfections and those of us who hide our imperfections make really terrible characters.
The thing is, it’s only in admitting my mistake, and being transparent about it, that I become a really “likeable” character in my own story because others can relate.
What are your imperfections and are you willing to be honest about them?
3. A good character finds redemption in her suffering.
My wife told a story about something really terrible that happened to her when she was little. The thing that happened to her has caused a lot of suffering in her adult life. If you’re curious, you can read about it here.
Since she wrote the article, she has connected with girls who faced similar kinds of suffering and who, through reading the article, found the courage they needed to be honest about what they had experienced. Helping someone else climb out of the pit that she was in for so many years of her life is redemptive for her.
Not to mention, writing the article has helped her to come to new understanding about herself, and new security in her relationship with the Lord.
She’s a character who is living a good story.
4. A good character is willing to engage conflict.
Matt Appling wrote a story several weeks ago about a time that he went on a Mission trip without praying about it first, without even asking his wife. The decision he made could have potentially brought a lot of conflict, but Matt wasn’t afraid of conflict.
Good characters can’t be afraid of conflict. They have to be able to live in conviction, and make decisions out of that conviction, and willing to engage whatever conflict comes along their way.
If you’re living a good story conflict will come. Conflict is not a bad sign. It’s actually a good one.
When was the last time you bravely faced conflict?
5. A good character takes people with them in their journey.
Stories get really boring when they’re just about one person. Think about it. What would have happened in Cast Away if Tom Hanks never got off the island? His story would have lacked substance and meaning.
Our story is only as meaningful as the people who we are in relationship with.
Prodigal Magazine doesn’t matter without you — do you know that we think that? Without you sitting in your pajamas, or your cubicle, reading, commenting, submitting your stories, learning what it means to tell and live a good story, what we’re doing here loses purpose. We do what we do because of you.
We believe that stories have the ability to change the world, yes. But even more importantly we believe stories can change your life.
Prodigal can’t do that without you.
We’re invested in bringing you with us by helping you communicate the story you’re living. If you have a story that you’d like to share, feel free to submit to our Write Page or if there is anything I can do to help you live a better story, e-mail me here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are other ways that you can become a better character in your story?
These are my thoughts adapted from my experience at Storyline by Donald Miller.