New Year’s Resolutions – for writers and their protagonists

It’s New Year’s Eve!  Time to reflect on the past year – goals met, triumphs won, mistakes made, lessons learned.  Despite their short shelf life, I like New Year’s resolutions.  They hold an optimistic sort of grit – each year presents a new opportunity to remake ourselves through the act of sheer willpower.

Plus, when you think about what you’d like to change, you may just learn something you about yourself.  That’s why writers should consider resolutions not only for ourselves, but also for our protagonists.


According to five minutes of googling, the top New Year’s resolutions include: (1) stop smoking, (2) get in shape, (3) spend less, (4) quit drinking, and (5) get organized.  Men are apparently more successful if they have incentive-based goals, while women do better if they make their goals public and get support from friends.  According to the New York Times, the mere act of making a resolution puts you in a better position to accomplish your goal than someone who hasn’t so resolved.

Since I had kids, my New Year’s resolution has been the same each year: No more yelling at them.  Certainly, I think each December, I can resolve these little conflicts with reason, logic, and a soft sweet voice.  My resolution usually lasts until about 3:00 pm on January 1st, when I find myself shouting something like, “No hitting the dog with swords!”

As an exercise in getting to know your protagonist, try thinking about how your character believes she needs to improve.  Is this really where she needs to improve, or is she fooling herself?  What steps would she take to accomplish her goal?  Would she succeed, or end up drinking that bottle of merlot and scarfing a pound of Dove chocolate?

I write a legal-thriller series featuring D.C. sex-crimes prosecutor Anna Curtis.  Anna had a dark childhood, and takes her cases very much to heart.  She’s devoted to fighting for justice, but the stress of the job, seeing the dark side of human nature every day, takes it toll.  This year, Anna is resolving to go to yoga more.

Maybe I should do that too.  Perhaps some deep breathing would help me keep my calm with the kid/pet interactions?  I could even tote the tots to mommy-kiddo yoga.   Perhaps more downward dogs would lead to less swordplay with dogs?

This year, I resolve, the quiet will last ‘til at least 4:00 pm tomorrow.

What do you think? What’s the best New Year’s resolution you’ve ever made?  Are you making one this year – and what is it?  If you write – what would your protagonist resolve?  Leave your comments.

Most importantly, have a very happy new year!


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