Posts Tagged main characters
Does the main character of a story have to be likable or sympathetic? It’s a point that’s frequently raised by writers, readers, editors and critics. But consider this: a story is usually about a person under pressure. And people under pressure don’t always behave well or likably. Because they’re not saints.
On the other hand, they must have something that makes the reader care. So what is that?
We’re discussing that in today’s show. ‘We’, in case you’re wondering, are independent bookseller Peter Snell and moi.
Stream from the widget below or go to our Mixcloud page and binge the whole lot.
PS If you’d like more concentrated writing advice, try my Nail Your Novel books (especially my book on characters). If you’re curious about my own creative writing, find novels here and my travel memoir here. If you’d like to support bricks-and-mortar bookstores (US only at present) use Bookshop.org. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, find my latest newsletter here and subscribe to future updates here.
As one novel flies the nest, there’s another poking its beak out of the egg.
Its working title is Echo, but so far it’s nothing more than a concept, some exciting developments I must include and two main characters whose story it is.
But I’m not going to do any more work on those two yet. My next job is to look at the other main characters around them – the people who are important, but whose change and resolution is not on the same scale as the MCs’. Not Lizzie and Darcy, but all the Bingleys, other Bennets, Wickhams et al.
What are they doing without my MCs?
Echo won’t be their story, but I’m going to start with them – and what they want to do if my MCs aren’t there. They will have aims, goals, agendas, worries, people they adore, people they loathe, rivals and scores to settle.
It’s a little like what mystery and crime writers do. They create a murder or other crime, then add the people who are investigating, or feretting out what’s going on, perhaps getting into trouble with it themselves.
Then add MCs… and stir
But my MCs aren’t going to be investigator, observer types. They have needs of their own and will get into the biggest trouble of all. Once I add those to the other characters who already have full lives… it should be a good ride.
Writing in a vacuum
Too many writers get into difficulties because they start the other way round. They have an MC who is minutely drawn but seems to exist in a vacuum. It can be a struggle to write because it feels as if the character is walking through an undecorated TV studio with only the props that immediately fly into the writer’s mind – a milk bottle, say. Or the people who pop up to help something along – a mother or a boss.
To write your MC well you also have to write their world – and the most significant factors in that world are not where the corner shop is, but the lives of the other people. If you make them up as you go along it can be a huge mental effort, especially if you need to create people with credible lives.
So the more complete your other characters are, and their problems, the easier it is to throw in your main one. Also, the supporting players will be less like puppets of the main trajectory.
By seeing what they would do without my MCs, I can make sure that when I throw them in, they really start some trouble.
Start your story as if your characters didn’t exist, then add them – and you’ll have a lot more fun.
What do you do to flesh out your world beyond the main characters? Share in the comments!
Thank you, Atmasphere, for the pic
In case you’re curious, my novel My Memories of a Future Life launches on August 30th!