Stories are all about conflict and transformation. If the main character in your story can achieve all of his/her desires without any struggle at all, then it wouldn’t be much of a story. It is therefore the job of the writer to make things difficult for the hero/heroine. One writer likened this to getting your main character stuck up a tree and then throwing rocks at them. As readers, we tend to love an underdog: someone who succeeds in the face of adversity. Therefore, as writers, it is our job to make sure our main characters suffer, so they can earn the success that they truly deserve.
Often the main character also has to learn something important about themselves before they can take that final step to success. If you are familiar with the Three Act Structure, you will know that this epiphany moment usually occurs following the main character’s darkest moment at the end of the second act. The darkest moment is that time when all seems lost and our hero/heroine is in the depths of despair. It is at this point where they find something new about themselves, which gives them the courage and inspiration to go on.
Even if you don’t believe in a three act structure, the darkest moment is usually recognisable story beat in most successful stories. It is the emotional darkness before the dawn of success. Without it there is little emotional contrast. Some writers talk about two stories: the outer story we associate with the plot line and the inner story about the change or transformation of the main character during the course of the story. Another term often used is the character arc.
Of course, not all stories are about main characters that change for the better. Some may change for the worse, or they may refuse change despite everything. It depends on the type of story you are writing. In an action-driven story, the inner story may seem unimportant compared to the outer storyline. But it’s still an important component. It’s just more subtle. That’s because all stories are about characters; and if you want your reader to empathise with those characters, you need to understand the character’s inner story. It is the character’s inner story that carries the moral theme of the story (for example, good will overcome evil, love conquers all, freedom is worth fighting for, family is important etc.). And as I have said in an earlier blog, without at least one theme you have no story.