M is for Main Character #AtoZChallenge

MjpgIt is the letter M today on the A to Z Challenge. I have previously written about antagonists, minor characters and sidekicks, but today I want to focus on the main character or characters in your novel.

I can’t stress enough that you need a well-developed main character for your novel. I can watch a movie or read a book that has a so-so plot if the main character is someone whom I like, am interested in/care about or can relate to.

Obviously, when developing a character, you will need their physical description (tall, blond hair, blue eyes, short, plump, scar on the forehead), but you need to know so much more than that. You need to know everything about them even if you don’t think it is relative to your plot.

You should know their family history, where they were born, who raised them, what happened to them as a child, their love life, his or her life experiences as each of these made your character into the person he or she is today.

Some areas to consider when developing your character…

1.)    What does he or she want?

2.)    Are there any obstacles they will need to overcome?

3.)    Who is their best friend? What is their family like?

4.)    Do they have any talents?

5.)    What is their strength? Weakness?

6.)    How do they look? How do they act? Do they have any unique mannerisms?

This is by no means a complete list.

Another great way to help develop your character is to interview them. Ask them some of these questions and more and let them answer in their own words.

Remember to give your character flaws and not just some random traits. There should be reasons behind those flaws.

Basically, you should know your character inside and out. By understanding their motives, their emotions and their response to what happens in your story, you will write better. You will write so your characters come alive for your readers and so then will your story.

Why? Why? Why? A very important question authors should be able to answer

Abstract red colored neon lights with the word Why uid 1647863Why are they doing this? Why are they going there? Why? Why? Why? No that isn’t my four-year-old asking the questions. It is my husband as he read drafts during the writing of my trilogy, The Elemental.

And his questions, while annoying sometimes, did help during my revisions to make it a better story. Every author needs to know the why of their character’s actions. Rarely do people do something without a reason. And yes, that reason may only make sense to them but at least there is a reason. And the reader should understand – or somewhat follow the logic behind your character’s actions – or they may become confused and begin to question your scene or even your whole novel. Once they become distracted from the story, they may decide this book just isn’t for them.

I am now in the beginning stages of planning my next novel. And the new question is not necessarily “why” but “why now?” By this I mean, why is THIS story happening now?

I write fantasy so if you are going to have a quest where the hero finds the sword (or spell or amulet) that will allow him to defeat the dark lord and save the world, don’t you have to know why the story is taking place now? If the dark lord has reigned a thousand years why would he be defeated now?

I am making up that story line which of course has nothing to do with the novel I am working on. But really, you do need to decide why your story is happening at this instance.

If you are writing a crime novel, the why actually might be a lot of the story.  If you are writing about an abuse victim who fakes their death and starts a new life or kills their abuser, you have to wonder why now? What happened that led them to that point right now verses two years or even six months ago?

Of course there may not be an answer in some of these instances. And if your character has cancer, there is no answer to why this happened now. But often there can be a reason why. Why did the murder take place now? Why did the heroine quit her job today after months (or years) of slaving away at a job she hates?

Part of this covers what spurs your protagonist into action but on the grander scale of things, I am looking at why that event occurred and why at this instance. And maybe it really doesn’t matter in other genres as much as it seems to in a fantasy novel.

If a kingdom has been without a king or in a period of peace or unrest – why would now be the time for a hero or villain to rise? The answer to that may not be obvious, and the reader may never know the full answer but like knowing your character‘s history or building your own fantasy world, a lot of what you write is in the details. In other words, the author needs to know why.