When your story begins, your main character is probably in a rut. They are enjoying – or not enjoying – their status quo. They are stuck in the ordinary world.

We’ve already discussed how you can show your character’s need to change via their relationship with their feelings and with the truth. Another method is showing how – or if – your hero keeps agreements.

Sometimes, the person who doesn’t keep agreements is just a jerk, but sometimes adults are put into impossible situations, forced to choose between two good or two bad options.

A common trope in fiction is the absentee parent, usually a father. The divorced dad who doesn’t show up for his weekends with his children. The police detective who misses special events because of a case. The mom whose job requires her to work late, so she’s not home for dinner or bedtime. The drunk who sleeps through the weekend, with tragic consequences for someone else.

In romance stories, one of the leads is usually slippery with commitment. The guy who doesn’t call after a hookup. The woman with a demanding job and no time for serious dating. No one keeps commitments in crime novels.

Similarly, we also commit to not doing things. People promise not to drink or smoke or cheat, and they break those agreements as well.

As we did the last two says, review your recent projects and see how your protagonists handled commitments and agreements. Is your MC a bit too good to be true? Put them in a situation early on that forces them to make a choice that will result in someone being hurt, angry, or disappointed. Examine why they made their choice and how it will rebound on them later. Have them promise not to do something and then do it anyway.