1. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    2nd Novel. Protagonist feels sort of lame.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Flying Geese, Mar 14, 2015.

    What makes a protagonist interesting to you? I mean really interesting. I think my writing suffers a bit in this area, because I've always consumed stories where there is a good chance that the protagonist is not the most interesting character in the story. Not to say he/she is lame. But I have never had the protagonist be my favorite character ever.

    So my problem is, I usually develop deep and interesting other characters throughout the story, that interact with the MC, and I come up with great backstories and histories for these other characters. Why can't I seem to do that for my MC?

    As I await your responses, I am going to try to re-imagine my story as though the MC were an other character and see if I can come up with a better backstory for him, as well as mannerisms etc.

    But I want to know what makes your MC great for you? Or is your MC ever your favorite character?
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's an interesting perspective, actually. By MC, do you actually mean the protagonist, or do you mean the point-of-view character? The one who narrates the story. POV, in other words.

    A POV character can actually BE a minor player, one who simply watches other people's stories unfold, including that of your protagonist. Sometimes POV characters don't actually influence events. Instead, they tell other people's stories. I'm wondering if this is what you're choosing to do. If so, there is nothing wrong with it. In fact, it's a time-honored method of presenting a novel. You can develop this non character a bit (if you want to) by showing what other characters see and do around him. Do they notice him much? Do they seem to value him? Do they seek him out? Do they seem to despise him, or treat him with disdain? Do potential sexual partners find him attractive? Or not. Etc. His personal development might not be important to the story at all.

    If you actually do mean the protagonist (the person who is the main player in story events) then you do need to develop his character. People need to be affected by what he does, and perhaps react strongly to what he says and does. Boost his charisma level (if that's appropriate) by making people seek him out and pay attention to him—or react against him, if that's appropriate. Or you can make us feel a strong interest in him as readers, because he has a compelling inner life, even if the people in his life don't rate him much. This works best if he's the POV character as well.

    Do you get sidetracked by creating powerful minor characters and having fun with them, to the extent that the main character gets a bit lost? If so, you probably need to strengthen your main character so he can compete with these minor characters.

    Example: If you've created a wisecracking minor character, you should strengthen the main character to compete for the reader's attention. Your main character can out-wisecrack the minor character, or at least compete with his wit and play the game well.

    Or, he can become strongly irritated by the antics of this wisecracker, and either let it show openly, or spend some time growling convincingly to himself (if we're in his head.)

    Or he can remain outwardly calm, thinking ''well, this guy is going to fall on his arse sooner or later, I'll just wait..." Sometimes a calm character, especially when others around him are not calm, becomes the centre of the whirlwind. Somebody who is incredibly charismatic, simply because they are self-controlled and self-contained.

    Or your main character can just laugh and clap the jokester on the back, if the guy's wisecracks are truly funny. Everybody loves a listener, somebody who pays attention to other people and appreciates their talent. Admitting another's superiority is not a sign of weakness. If your readers like your wisecracking character and your main character likes him too, this creates a bond between your main character and your reader.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2015
  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your protagonist may be a sort of Everyman, the normal person in an extraordinary world. It may be easier for readers to identify with the protagonist this way, and experience the adventures with similar perspectives.

    I usually prefer the sidekick to the big damn hero, myself, so I wouldn't have a problem with the situation you've described.
     
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  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe you're just too restricted by the fact that this character is your MC. The MC carries a lot of responsibilities, and to a certain extent, depending on the sort of story/genre you're writing, there are some things a MC cannot do lest they become unlikeable and/or loses the reader's sympathy. There are also things the MC must do in order to drive the story forward. The MC isn't really completely free to be whatever and whoever a human being can be.

    Side characters have no such responsibilities. Perhaps because they're less restricted, you find more freedom in dreaming them up as actual people, with actual dreams and histories because there's nothing to lose - there's no risk there. Or at least, far lower risks. And if someone dislikes a side character, it's not the end of the world.

    I wonder if you're telling the right kinds of stories that would really allow your characters to flourish?
     
  5. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds like your POV character is an audience surrogate. Nothing wrong with that, there are a hell of a lot of them in literature.
     
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  6. Flying Geese
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    Flying Geese Contributing Member

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    To answer your question Jannert, my MC is the protagonist and, most often, the POV character. As I read you guys' comments I see that there are things that could make him an interesting character. He goes through some stuff, he changes, he has conflict. But he doesn't quite interact with people as characteristically as the minor characters do.

    When I first created the story, he was by far my favorite character. But then after making it beyond the rough draft to having most of the story written, I see that the minor characters are really easy to identify just by their speech. And so is he, but I just don't feel the same thing when I write his lines and actions for some reason.
     
  7. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is a really, really common problem. Often the protagonist is the most "normal" person in the story because they show the writer's own viewpoint looking at all the crazy people around them. That's not a problem per se - but it means you need to purposefully spend as much time developing the protag's background, quirks, and motivation so that you know what's interesting about them and so their actions are authentic. I feel your pain, as I've done a ton of this (and have more to do) with my own protag.

    My go-to on craft stuff is the podcast Writing Excuses. They have one just on Heroes and Protags. Plus a bunch more on chracter development.

    http://www.writingexcuses.com/2008/03/09/writing-excuses-episode-5-heroes-and-protagonists/
     

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