Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why your main character gets their own book

My main character and I have been locked in a staring contest for a while. I've taken a good look at her and some time to think about why she gets her own book. Why her adventures should be considered worth reading. The truth is: no matter how exciting her journey may be, it isn't worth reading about if she isn't worth reading about.

Take a look at your main character. What is so special about them?

Think about it.

Something is special.

Small clarification: That special something does not include superpowers (if they have them). I mean that part of them that is inherently good / the reason they are able to push past their fear / that thing that makes them a hero. For example: Superman has superpowers, but that is what makes him remarkable, not what makes him special. His desire to help those in need makes him special.

Think about a friend of yours. A newly acquired friend. One where you can remember the moment you decided you liked them. When was that moment?

Was it the moment you realized they had beautiful, shining hair that rippled in the breeze? The day they wore an amazingly fashionable outfit to work? The time they recounted what they did over the weekend with people you don't know.

I bet it wasn't.

I bet it was the moment they showed something about their character that you admired or could relate to. They expressed interest in a charity or they recommended a book for you to read and it was already your favorite or they endured kryptonite to save a cat from a burning building. Sometimes there are a few little moments before you can make up your mind. Every now and then, all you need is one big one.

In a novel, the clock is ticking. The reader needs a reason to be interested in your main character. It is up to you to provide that reason. Early. As in, during the first chapter. The first pages.

Give your character an opportunity to prove themselves. To show who they really are. A big opportunity.

The world's best opening sentence is a great goal, but keep this in mind: Your reader wants more than a good pick-up line. They want someone to care about. A reason to read.

Give them that reason.


Jana Richards said...

Hi Stephanie,
A very timely blog for me. As I'm working on my current WIP I'm trying to figure out what's so special about my heroine. Why does the hero fall in love with her? Cause at the moment she feels pretty unspecial to me.

I am about to do sit down and do some thinking about my heroine and see if I can figure out what makes her special to me, my hero, and hopefully my readers.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Helena said...

Me, too, Stephanie. I thought I knew my characters pretty well, but my current rewriting exercise is leading me to believe that my knowledge is too shallow. Not my characters! I'm not writing about shallow characters!! But I have yet to prove that to my readers.

In a recent workshop, it was suggested that to get to know my characters inside out it would benefit me to spend extensive time "with" each one. In particular, I should write about each one's response to the same event, and examine what made them think and act the way they do in that moment. It's something I haven't done yet, but it keeps lurking in the background, and I'm surely going to have to spend that time.

Hopefully, as Jana says, something special about each one will emerge.

Very timely post!

Joanne Brothwell said...

Hi Stephanie,
Great topic, and so important. I always remember characters I liked, the ones I had something in common with, could relate to or that I admired.

Great post!

Stephanie said...

Hey Ladies,

Thanks for the comments :)