Does Your MC Sing? How to Fix a Boring Protagonist
When I began The Comyn’s Curse (then titled Full Scottish Breakfast–what was I thinking!), I created a cast of unique characters that reviewers and critiquers on The Write Practice immediately loved. Old, irascible Scot Angus with his nearly incomprehensible broque and quick temper, the Owls, that mysterious group of housemates who stepped in to save Aubrey from herself…and of course my men. Oohh la la, they were fun to write! And everybody loved them.
But I began to notice comments like “I really can’t get into Aubrey”, and “Aubrey is so wishy-washy, I just don’t care about her!” They weren’t being cruel. I had to admit that, from the start, I hadn’t cared much about my protagonist either. She was just a vehicle for the others’ antics–a straight guy for their humor or evil or magic. I had let her down.
(Which is another reason to join a writing community and develop relationships with other writers you grow to trust. They won’t lie to you. It’s their (unpaid) job to tell you what sucks, and how it makes them as readers feel.)
I went back to the drawing board, put Aubrey on the table and went to work on her character. I gave her a reason for her behavior, and then I gave her a backbone. In other words, I made her human. She became a joy to write, full of pithy humor and self-deprecation that proved she was worthy of not just the man of her dreams, but the position of star in my show.
I eventually sent my manuscript to an editor, and the first comment she made was that she loved Aubrey! Angus was still wonderful, the men funny and handsome and the villain(s) appropriately villainous, but my main character stole the show. I had made her sing.
In the links below I’ve shared some articles on how to make your protagonist rule the roost in your novel, but the main thing to take away from this is:
Make him/her real. Make her flawed. Make her brave enough to face her demons and strong enough to find the will to win. Give her a motivation for the stupid/thoughtless/terrible decisions she makes in the story.
And most of all: Make her funny, damn it. If your protagonist doesn’t have a sense of humor, as Aubrey didn’t until I made her find and embrace it, there’s no point in reading further. She’s the scaffolding for your story, the reason you’re writing it.
Don’t sell her out. Make her sing.
Links for Writers
How to Make Your Protagonist More Likeable https://prowritingaid.com/art/718/5-ways-to-make-your-protagonist-more-likable.aspx
How to Create Unforgettable Protagonists https://www.literautas.com/en/blog/post-443/how-to-create-unforgettable-protagonists/
33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters https://www.well-storied.com/blog/write-stronger-characters
Character Creation: 3 Tips for Crafting a Protagonist https://thewritelife.com/character-creation-protagonist/
Twice Upon a Time, by Dan Davidson and Rich Marcano
What if you were given the opportunity of a “do-over”—a chance to travel back in time and change your life’s path? What decisions would you make differently? What mistakes would you fix? And what would you do if you learned that your fate is set at birth, and cannot be escaped?
Available at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Twice-Upon-Time-Dan-Davidson-ebook/dp/B07VYMFZKT/ref=sr_1_18?crid=1N1FUFC0KPMBB&keywords=twice+upon+a+time&qid=1568147765&s=gateway&sprefix=Twice+upo%2Caps%2C225&sr=8-18
M MacKinnon’s World
As you know, I’m in Scotland for the month. What you may not know, is that, as a MacKinnon, I can trace my heritage back to Alpin, last king of the Picts. Oh, yeah. Pretty cool, eh?
Well, moving on. I went to the center of Pictish culture to find out more about these original inhabitants of Scotland, and I found out that they were a proud people who eventually assimilated with the Irish and became Scots. So, now I’m Irish and Pictish. In other words, a Scot. I can deal with that
I visited the area in which Celtic/Pictish culture flourished, and in the tiny fishing village of Portmahomack I found the Discovery Centre, located in a monastery which had seen its share of violence throughout the centuries, but also had given rise to a phenomenal Pictish culture. Here’s a picture of a stone found on the site. Incredible people, the Picts.