This is a part of a seven part Q&A with Eric Witchey, interviewed by M.K. Martin. To see the introduction to this craft talk series click here. To read Part 1 click here. 
M.K Martin: How do you use character(s) to drive the story?
Eric Witchey: This is a hard question. I hear two questions. The first is about how I work. The second is about how things feel to the reader when the story is finished. I’ll look at the patterns that function for the reader, the second question, first.

“Teaching with Gestures”, Wordcrafters Conference, 2015

Given the above examples, consider that the story of C1, who is the Point of View (POV) character, has already begun. In essence, she has demonstrated an emotional state by confronting a problem (time and school busses). She has made a reasonable decision about how to solve that problem. She has spoken (an action). Now, C2 hears her and responds. “I need the car. Therapy’s in ten minutes.” Conflict. The cycle of development from character emotion to conflict to new character emotion is: Emotion leads to Decision leads to Action leads to Conflict leads to new Emotion (ED ACE). Managing that cycle is a class all by itself, so I’ll stop before I commit how-to book.
Conflict between C1 and C2 will likely be more than one exchange. It will likely include several exchanges and tactical shifts that display the psychology and sociology of both characters. If the unfolding emotional changes in character resulting from their interactions continue to drive the conflict, the story will be emotionally driven. If the emotional changes that take place scene by scene, sequence by sequence, and movement by movement, are strongly linked to the themes of the story and the deepest, changing value systems of the characters, the story is driven by character.
There are a thousand ways to create a result that includes these concepts and satisfies the reader. My personal process is normally to write fast to discover character and story. Having written enough material to build a story, I then begin again by evaluating the relationship between the characters and underlying themes. Without spending hours describing that process, it boils down to thinking deeply and carefully about how the reader internalizes the experience of story then rebuilding the story to support the reader’s experience.

About Eric Witchey: Eric Witchey is known for teaching clear, useful skills that allow students to create salable fiction. His classes draw from his experience teaching at two universities, a community college, countless conferences, and in many corporate and private settings. He has sold work in ten genres with over 140 short stories and six novels in national and international markets. His work has been honored by Writers of the Future, New Century Writers, Writers Digest, Short Story America, the Eric Hoffer Award Program, the Irish Aeon Awards, among others.
His articles have appeared in The Writer’s Magazine, Writer’s Digest, and other online and print magazines. Visit Eric Witchey online at

About M.K. Martin: M. K. Martin is a motorcycle-riding, linguistics nerd. A former Army interrogator with a degree in psychology, she uses her unique knowledge and skill set to create smart, gritty stories that give readers a glimpse into the darker corners of the human mind. Find out more at