I don’t know about you, but when the protagonist makes the ultimate sacrifice, that grabs me as a reader. That cements me to the character and into the story. As the character wrestles with making the choice, depth is added to the story and the character. And in the end, the sacrifice is what makes the protagonist a hero.
How can we make our protagonist choose the ultimate sacrifice in our writing?
One example of sacrifice a character has to make is in the TV series Moonlight. Vampire private eye Mick St. John has finally become human, and he no longer has his supernatural strength. He’s mortal. He could die. His beloved Beth, a human, is kidnapped. Her life is in danger, and Mick cares about her more than anything in the world. The only way he can save her is by becoming a vampire again, the one thing he despises most. Mick would give anything to stay human, but Beth is more important to him than his humanity. He makes the choice to become a vampire again, and we see that emotion when, in anguish, he slams his friend against the wall and shouts, “They’ve got my Beth!”
Mick convinces his vampire bud Joseph to bite him. As the camera zooms in on Mick as Joseph comes in for the bite, the look on Mick’s face says it all—he just made the ultimate sacrifice—to save someone else. Fans love this! It’s heartbreaking. And it makes a gripping scene.
As a writer, ask yourself—What ultimate sacrifice might the protagonist make to save someone else? What is the biggest deal, the worst thing he could do to himself for the sake of another? Who or what is so important that the protagonist would make this sacrifice? Now set up your story so the protagonist will have a choice to make. And the options aren’t good. The character is in a tough spot—stuck between a bad option and a worse option. Now ask—What series of events will bring your protagonist to the decision that will have to be made? Figuring this out will take some plotting, but the results will be worth the time.
Going back to the sacrifice. What are some things the protagonist might sacrifice? It might be his humanity. The trust of someone he loves so he can be honest with them. Maybe his sacrifice pulls him into a dark place, making him a person he loathes, or his dark side emerges because of his actions, but for the character, the sacrifice would be worth it as long as the loved one is safe. (Think Anikan in Star Wars.) The protagonist might give his life for another, (but death isn’t always the worst fate.)
Whatever the sacrifice, make the choice agonizing. Make the stakes high. Make repercussions follow. The choice has to be so tortured and life changing that the reader will feel it too, especially if the setup in the beginning of the novel is done right and the character is someone the reader is invested in.
Their favorite treats… storm sprites.
The blood of a storm sprite makes an intoxicating elixir for most supernatural beings, including vampires. After Killian, a reclusive vampire, comes across Sasha, a rare storm sprite, and saves her life, they develop an unlikely friendship. Because of his constant cravings for her blood, Killian keeps his distance while protecting Sasha from the supernaturals hungering for her. But as his behaviors change and he draws closer, Sasha’s no longer sure of his motivations. One day his cravings will become too much.
When a woman’s brutal murder spirals a hunt for an amulet that has demonic powers, Sasha and Killian are stuck between the feuding demons and vampires who are determined to possess the amulet’s secrets. Sasha must find the amulet for her protection—before she ends up on the wrong end of a demon’s blade, or worse, has her throat ripped out by the vampire she calls hers.