Getting to Know You
Without characters you have no story to tell. The most important character in your book is the main character; the one who suffers the trials and tribulations you dump on them. The person who learns and grows as they face problems, dangers, and unlooked for happiness.
You need to know who your main character is, what they like, what they hate, what motivates them to keep going every day. There are a couple of methods for you to learn about your main character. The first is interviewing them. That can be fun.
Anna: Welcome to Who Are You? I’m your host, Anna Dobritt. I hope everyone is having a great day. We have a special guest with us today, Raven Wyng. Thank you for joining us today, Raven.
Raven: My pleasure, Anna. I have a question before we start the interview. Is it all right if I smoke?
A: Go right ahead. I’ll join you.
R: Thanks. Ask your questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.
A: For those not aware, Ravyn Wyng is the main character in upcoming trilogy, The Ravynwyng Chronicles.
R: That’s right. I’m the one who suffers all the doubt, fear, anger, and joy the author tosses at me.
A: I have to ask, what is the significance of your tattoos?
R: Lyta Dinet, a friend of mine, and I were out drinking one night and we both thought it would be a great idea to get tattoos. She went with a wolf howling at the moon. I chose two: the raven on the skull on the right shoulder, and spread raven wings on the left. This way I’ll never forget my name.
A: I understand you were in a bad car accident a few years ago. Are you fully recovered from that?
R: Depends on what you mean by recovered. Physically I’m fine. Mentally, I still have problems. You see, after the accident, the driver of the other car attacked me with a tire iron. He nearly beat me to death. In the emergency room, my heart stopped a few minutes and was clinically dead before they got it beating again. I suffer from PTSD because of the attack.
A: What happened to the other driver?
R: He was put on trial and found not guilty by reason of insanity. He will spend the rest of his life in a mental hospital. They should have thrown his ass in jail.
What we learned about the main character in the interview. She smokes, has two tattoos, and likes to drink alcohol. She also has a friend named Lyta Dinet. We also learn why she got the tattoos. Another thing we learn is her being in a traffic accident and she briefly died. This is one way to know your main character better.
The second way is a dossier. I usually use this method. Everything you put in a dossier or character questionnaire will not show up in your work, but it gives you something to work from when dealing with the plot and scenes. You need to make the main character come alive for your readers, not be some stick figure moving from point A to point B over and over again.
In the dossier, you list such things as age, birth date, height, weight, hair color, and eye color. Do they have tattoos, chronic medical conditions? What are their hobbies, political leanings. Are they into religion or an atheist? Where were they born, where did they grow up? Do they have friends or are they loners? What about a nervous habit? Tugging on their ear lobe when they can’t make an instant decision; shuffling their feet when they are nervous. Does your main character have a secret they never told anyone? Something that could land them in trouble with the law or with their family or spouse?
Include a short biography about the main character in the dossier, up to the point where the story begins.
Some of what you put in the dossier can help with the plot, particularly if the main character has a phobia of some sort. When you are working on your plot and scenes, refer back to the dossier, if you get stuck on something.
No matter what genre you write in, you will get no where fast without a well-developed main character. Something else to remember, you have other important characters in your story. Don’t leave them out in the cold. Give them the same treatment you give your main character. It’s possible something in their background could lead to a whole new book.
May the words ever flow!