Writing Essentials: Characters Part Four: Protagonists Part 2

>> Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reposted from Rocket Scientist

So I came up with a second part.

Disclaimer: I'm not an expert on writing. I am not a published author, don't have any sort of English or writing degree, have never taught English or writing and, in fact, do something entirely different for a living. I am simply stating my opinion and caution any reader to assume that every statement described as if it were incontrovertible be assumed to include an "in my opinion" on it. This series is my own opinion as an aspiring writer to describe things I work to do in my own writing and what I look for when I read.

Aside from what a main character should be, there are certain things a main character needs to do during the course of story or book.

In my opinion, one of them is grow. Of all the things that leave me cold at the end of a book, few beat a stagnant main character (and this is why perfect characters rarely work - where they gonna grow?). They have to learn something, challenge themselves, find out things about themselves, their world, the people around them or, even better, all the above. Why?

Because a book or story should be a journey, not just for the reader, but for the characters involved. If not, why bother? That also argues that the main character should be actively involved, not sitting to the side while everyone else does the good stuff.

Characters should also reveal something of themselves. As characters are, as the are for me, the entree into the story, it's important to provide enough insight into them that the audience can get involved, can at least empathize with the decisions and choices the character makes. If this fails to catch a reader, the reader often becomes more and more frustrated and isolated from the character and, by extension, the story, if they ever get involved at all.

Characters need to be consistent to themselves (which may mean being completely unpredictable it that's their character). They need to interact with other characters in believable ways.

But, there are many limitations main characters don't have: gender, race, species, appearance, age, height, religion/belief system, etc. In other words, you can hitch a ride on anyone or anything as long as you have something for the readers to latch on to so they can enjoy the ride.

You don't have to tell the reader everything about your characters, but you should know about your characters, understand them, know their motivations for what they do. If you don't, it will be almost impossible for it not to be muddy for the reader.

In my opinion.


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