You have to know your main character almost as well as you know yourself. If not, your story will be missing a vital ingredient.

With all the resources that are available on the internet, it is very easy for an aspiring writer, to be overwhelmed with all the information. There is so much advice from experienced and published authors, writing coaches, editors and probably just as much from people who have hardly any idea about writing whatsoever. Sorting the wheat from the chaff can take some doing. However, it is I well worth doing, as learning to write a story and in a style that will attract readers is not a simple task.

At the same time, if you really have the motivation and desire to write, don’t wait around to learn everything. Your novel can always be improved later. Editing, proofreading, adding, deleting and toying with your story is always a process that follows the first draft stage, so get into a new habit of writing every day. By doing this will speed up your learning curve. Learn by doing, as the expression goes. Ask friends or family to read it and comment.

There is one point however that I wished I had learned early on in my writing. Above all else, in a story that jumps off the page, it is the main character that does the job. So make sure you know you him, her or it, very well indeed. Personality, appearance, quirks, birthday, family, likes, dislikes and even childhood memories all paint a better picture for your potential readers. An excellent example of this is Ian Rankin’s character, Inspector Rebus. He literally jumps off the page and grabs you and has you knowing him so quickly. All this without Ranking wasting much time on physical appearance.

So start writing your story and don’t get hung up on all the grammar, lexis and passive or active voice technicalities. These can all be fixed later. What can’t be fixed later is the character that you have in your head? When writing my last three books, I had the feeling I had someone living with me in my head 24/7 all the way through. You have to live with your main character to get to know them.

At the end of the writing process, I was very happy to send them on their way, though. House guests are only welcome for so long.

It’s All About Character
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3 thoughts on “It’s All About Character

  • 13/03/2011 at 7:09 pm

    This is great advice, Derek. I'm currently working on a novel that has two main characters (and two POVs), one male and one female, differing ages, and it's interesting to learn certain things about one that the other doesn't so readily give up. I quite like being able to compare them, as they both bring different things to me, the story, and each other. :)

  • 14/03/2011 at 9:10 am

    Sage advice Derek for which I heartily concur. As I go through my latest manuscript right now,having finished the first draft, I'm looking deeper into the two main characters characteristics and foibles. :)

  • 14/03/2011 at 9:38 am

    Agree wholeheartedly. Can I suggest that writing short stories with well developed POV characters is a good training ground, in the micro, so to speak?

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