Hey Mythcreants, my current plot has the female love interest get captured by the villain as part of a plan to lure the protagonist into a trap. I’m worried this will rob the love interest of agency. Any advice?-Anonymous
Hey Anon, thanks for writing in!
It’s good that you’re thinking about this now, as the female love interest getting kidnapped is basically the gold standard when it comes to a character losing agency. Some storytellers try to fix this by making the lady a badass before she gets kidnapped, but that doesn’t really help. If anything, it emphasizes the problem and can create the feeling of a capable woman being pushed aside so a dude can do things.
Instead, there are two useful options at your disposal. First, does she have to get captured? It’s surprising how often the answer is “no.” So many classic stories kidnap the leading lady that it’s easy to feel like that’s the expectation. If the goal is to lure the protagonist into a trap, is there anything else the villain can use as bait? Can they dangle information the hero needs or threaten to cause damage unless the hero shows up in the trap to stop them?
If abduction is your only option, then you need to look at ways to give the heroine agency despite being kidnapped. The simplest option is for her to break out on her own and help the hero, but there are other paths. Maybe she charms a guard and convinces them to carry a warning to the hero, so the villain’s trap fails. Or she might have a conflict where she learns the villain’s secret weakness, which she then gives to the hero. Of course, this can also tempt authors to add more POVs than their story wants, but that’s another subject entirely.
We also have a few posts on the subject:
- Character Agency: It’s What the Sexy Lamp Is Missing
- Five Stories Where the Hero Lacked Agency
- How Do I Give My Character Agency?
- Podcast: Agency and Productivity
Hope that answers your question, and good luck with your story!