1. Mirrorcle

    Mirrorcle New Member

    Jul 20, 2015
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    Side character who steals the spotlight from main character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Mirrorcle, Sep 12, 2015.

    My WIP is a gothic, supernatural tale about a young girl (MC) who meets and befriends and older woman, a witch (OW), and how this friendship changes them both and especially MC's life. I want to tell the story from MC's point of view since I want to focus on exploring the unknown and how she's finally choosing darkness over light, and the reasons behind that.

    The problem is that OW is totally stealing the spotlight, and I put way too much energy on her! I've had so much fun creating this weird personality, and I know everything about her: what she looks like, her motifs, what she wants from life, what she likes and dislikes, her childhood, what she would say in every situation, the way she sounds, her secrets, her bad sides, her style etc etc.

    For some reason I've had much more trouble getting to know MC. I mean, I know her background and how she got to know OW, but I can't picture her in my head the way I do with OW. I don't know what she looks like, I don't know how she dresses or talks, is she introvert or extravert? Is she a leader or a follower? What's her favorite movie? Her favorite smell? What's the first thing she is thinking about when waking up in the morning?

    I'm doing something wrong here, cause I think I have a story, but that's impossible without a strong main character - a strong voice. How can I develop MC and make her more than just a tool to describe OW and the supernatural events she experience? How can I make her a real person?

    (Just want to say; sorry for my bad English. I'm not a native speaker and I'm not writing in English either)
  2. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Aug 12, 2015
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    London, UK
    Just repeat the process you did for OW. :) There are tools out there to help you as well, like templates with dozens of questions for you to ask about your character and then answer. I don't use them so I don't have links, but I'm sure someone else will.

    You definitely, definitely need to know your main character before you write but I don't think it's a bad thing if OW steals the spotlight. That's going to make MC feel inferior and jealous and that's going to make us feel for her. It will also make it more understandable when she chooses darkness over light.
  3. OurJud

    OurJud Contributor Contributor

    May 21, 2009
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    I had this problem with a novel I started a couple of years ago, and I had to stop and ask myself who the MC really was.

    You have two choices: Stick with your MC and write them better, or tone down OW.

    I'd say go with the first. Show your reader who's boss.
  4. Emberi Homa

    Emberi Homa New Member

    Sep 15, 2015
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    So, as stated by another fabulous member of this community, you do have two choices. Do you keep the MC as the main character, or change main characters?

    Often as one writes, plans, inspiration, and ideas change. You have to roll with these changes. When a story really begins to be fleshed out, the truth is, large chunks of the story will be taken out. Even if the author loves these parts of the story, they may have become irrelevant to the plot and growth.

    The same goes for characters.

    However, if you are dead set on the MC staying the main character, here are some things you can do:

    My number one recommendation will always be to write. In this case, you could write about the MC without the OW in the scene.

    To better understand your MC, you could do some "meet the character" activities, such as:
    1) Write about your character cooking.
    2) Write about your character at work/school.
    3) Write about your character meeting an old friend/enemy/acquaintance after ten (or less, if the character is young) years.
    (These three examples are taken from a book about writing, called The Lie That Tells a Truth)

    Or, you could delve right into the story. Start the story with just the MC, promise yourself the OW won't come into the picture until you feel more in tune with your MC, and see what happens. Even if you don’t know where the story will go, write and give it time.

    Always, write. Remember, you can always go back and change things that you don't like.
  5. Scrib

    Scrib Active Member

    Oct 12, 2013
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    Berlin, Germany
    Perhaps OW can help shed a little more light on your MC. Just as an exercise; try writing a couple of paragraphs from OW's POV, she might have an interesting interpretation of your MC.
  6. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

    Nov 12, 2014
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    Well, I think conflict will help put the reader back on track. While yeah it sounds like your main girl needs work. It isn't a problem that you underplay her. To a degree that is the point. Take the movie The Karate Kid as an example. In that movie the old man is a lot more interesting. A war vet who lost his wife, been alive for a long time, has lots of skills. On paper he is way more interesting. That is the point though our lead changes by the encounter.

    Same in your case.

    Which means you need 2 versions of your girl. Who she was and who she becomes.

    For the overshadowing. I don't think it is really a problem in your case. I do remember a story once. Where a kid was hearing a story about his parents. Here is an case where it applies;

    See in the story. The lead is boring! He is stiff, few character traits and they are just over blown. He is stupid and lucky. Now he was listening to a story about how his mom and dad fell in love. Now that story was about a ecentric girl who just moved to a new town and the genuis quiet boy who had a crush on her. She is loud and obnoxious but is being true to herself and she gets picked on. The boy out of no where jumps out and saves her. (I guess he was a stalker. Damn the quiet ones) He just kicks all there asses. And it was awesome! And they kissed and did I mention awesome? Then the flashback ends and I am like. "NOOOO!!!!!! NOT THE DEWB! GO BACK TO THE PARENTS!"

    The point being that I doubt your case paints the which up so well that we want to skip the MC. I mean even if she isn't perfect. You have to make her bad for that. Even if I don't like a character I can watch them. To want to not watch them takes more of a dislike. If that makes sense?
    peachalulu likes this.
  7. Enyo

    Enyo Member

    May 11, 2015
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    It's dramatic, but I had the exact same issue. The secondary character now has a totally seperate story.
  8. Aerisfullofwhimsy

    Aerisfullofwhimsy Member

    Sep 26, 2015
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    Blue Ridge Mountains
    I have had the same problem. This is what I did : I wrote a small (very small) short story with the interesting side character as a main character. I did not write this to publish it, but to get the fascination of her out of my system. I got to work on her character even more and a majority of her new developed were not even used in the original/main work. I had a lot of fun doing this and by the time I finished, I was ready to concentrate on the MC evenly.
  9. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
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    If your OW is the more interesting character—by a long shot, apparently—perhaps SHE is actually the main character. Don't forget, the protagonist and the point-of-view character don't have to be the same. Literature is full of people whose main characters are seen through the eyes of one who is less important.

    I am definitely not in the camp that thinks you should tone down or eliminate the OW. She's jumped out at you. She's a worthy, likeable character with the chops to carry the story. What a shame it would be to dilute or dump her.

    Writing is full of surprises, and maybe this is one of yours. Perhaps you could even shift POV to this OW who is in control, etc ...who suddenly meets this young woman who becomes her friend and alters things.

    I'm speaking as one whose own story shifted this way. My protagonist is not my main POV character after all. This shift evolved, as I wrote the story. He IS the protagonist, though. It's his story's resolution that is the most important, but much of what he does is seen through the eyes of another, secondary character. He does have POV chapters and scenes, but most are carried by other characters.
  10. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

    May 20, 2012
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    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    MC's don't by a rule have to be the most interesting character or the strongest voice. Sometimes the mc is rather laidback compared to the chaos of the characters around her - rather like Alice ( from Alice in Wonderland ) though her character did come out usually in response to the others.

    Could be you're trying to keep the mc too cool. I've seen this happen a lot in Ya. There's a bit of a stranglehold on the mc's especially the girls to be a certain way - thin, pretty, kind, laidback, leaders. That's pretty hard to keep a character so 'on' like this. Their good points seem overwhelming and their faults minor. I'm not saying to make her a creep but what's her goal? Why is she befriending an older woman? Does she lack social graces, is she a prickly type of person, does she push people away or make them uncomfortable? I'm not saying you have to be a weirdo to have her befriend an older person but kids usually hang out with kids. So I would be thinking their is something about her that makes her a tad antisocial.

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