Thursday, July 8, 2010

Main Character CPR

While I was trying to write a different blog post about the writing process, I realised that I have a problem with the main character on my current work in progress. A major problem. My main character is flat. Sure, she has fears, which is a major part of her character, but I realised that there was nothing to make her unique. She was kind of just going with the flow.

My main character was suddenly overshadowed by my further developed secondary characters. This is a problem because the story has to be told from her perspective. It's her story, not her sister's and not her love interest's even though they may seem like bolder, stronger characters than she is. Also, I understand that my novel is plot-heavy, but it's very important for my main character to three dimensional and grow because she (and the secondary characters) is so important to the story.

No matter what I did, I seemed to skirt around the main character. The love interest suddenly became the most three dimensional, relatable character. Perfect. He likes to read. Okay, but in a desolate environment, this could prove challenging. If I am able to write a second book, he will also struggle with his identity in that book.

The main character's sister is out of play for most of the novel, but even in the short time she is there it's easy to see that she has a strong personality and it's unique to her. Her character is natural for me and it comes to me without having to work too hard. This is not the case with the main character. She has flaws; the type that cause her to doubt herself and her actions a lot. But I realised she didn't have any likes or desires (other than the desire to hide and for things to be normal again). After talking with my best friend and going through some ideas with her, I found something that would not only make her unique, it fit her personality and actually enhanced it.

[READER INTERACTION] What do you do when you realise your character is flat. How do you handle this situation?


  1. The last time that happened, I renamed my character. Her name was making me feel she should be a certain way. Yeah, stupid I know, but when I changed her name everything began to work. Her personality was completely different and all of a sudden she was tough enough with more personality suited to handling all that I was about to throw at her.

    Just a thought. Look at new names.

  2. Sometimes (much to our chagrin) characters other than the one we chose to be the protagonist take over the story. And, I've found, it's usually best to listen to the story when that happens. The character *we* most enjoy spending time with is probably the character the readers will feel likewise about.

    BTW, I'll second Charity's recommendation about changing the character's name. I was struggling with the MC of my upcoming fantasy Dreamers until I gave him a quick name and occupation makeover. Then, voila, he jumped off the page!

  3. Someone suggested that I make my MC more active and aggressive.

    I've also been using voice journals, writing as the character for a few pages to find out who they are and what they want.