One of the number one issues I find in my first and second (and even third and fourth) drafts is character agency. Agency is the idea that the protagonist needs to be the one driving the story forward in every scene. After all, the story of their change is THE STORY (see The Story Stitch). So, when a secondary character takes over the dialog and the protagonist spends a whole chapter just listening, or when the protagonist sits idly by while another character takes control of the decisions and actions, the real story stalls. The protagonist lacks the agency to move it forward.
To draft with agency, look at each scene and consider:
- What does the protagonist say and do?
- How do the protagonist’s words and actions…
- reveal their character (and that of others)?
- show or slow their own growth?
- cause more conflict/tension for themselves?
- increase the stakes?