John says ...

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 April, 2010, 12:00am

What's the worst place you could send someone who is obsessed with slimming?

Annie's story tells us that taking slimming tablets to look like a model is not only dangerous, it can easily leave you looking unhealthy and ugly.

Cleverly, she gets this message across by sending Betty to an all-you-can-eat buffet. This is a place where even those of us with the greatest self-control sometimes find it hard not to overeat.

Many very good stories put a character into the worst situation they could possibly imagine, or force them to make a particularly difficult choice.

Putting them in positions like these can help create intense drama or, in a story with a lighter tone, hilarious comedy. And it is also a wonderful opportunity to reveal a character's true personality.

How do you find out what someone is really like? One sure way is through seeing how they behave when life becomes extremely tricky for them. And the choices they then make can be surprising.

A person may be seen by the world - and, possibly, also by themselves - as weak-willed and cowardly. But if we saw them hesitating outside a blazing building, before risking their life by charging in to save a helpless victim, our opinion of them would change completely.

I'll try and show you what I mean about characters, and their choices, in my version of the article.

Also, in Annie's original story, Arthur and David point out to the girls how silly and dangerous their behaviour has been. However, it is usually stronger to have a character eventually realise themselves that they have been doing something wrong. Then we are more likely to believe they've really learned their lesson.

Most people usually don't choose to put themselves into difficult situations. So if an author is going to put a character somewhere they don't want to be, they need to find a good reason for them being there. Let's see if we can also help explain why Betty is at the buffet.

While I'm going to try my best to keep Annie's original message in my version, I hope she will forgive me for making some big changes as I attempt to show you what I mean by all this.