Monday, June 3, 2013

How Well Do You Know Your Main Character?

Most books start out defining the main character in bits and pieces, giving the reader just what he needs to know to see how he fits into the story. I had a fun time exploring my main character, Ari, as I was outlining my new book. I wrote a character survey on him, defining all factions of his life, including a history of his past. This left me aching to include all kinds of extraneous details as I began filling in my story.

How much is too much?

Sometimes I want to explain my characters so the reader will understand the whys behind the action. But recently I read a comment that stopped me dead in my tracks.

If you have to explain your character, you've killed him.

In other words, if the reader doesn't see, by your character's actions, why he's acting the way he is, then you haven't built a strong enough history on your character. You need to prepare for your character's sudden change in direction. If your character is going to save the bad guy from sure destruction, the reader needs to be savvy about it and not sitting there scratching his head, asking why?

I'm learning how to present a character in a story and how to build on the information given. Here is the beginning of my new story The Puzzle Box:

“Ari! You let the fire die again! How often do I have to tell you to keep this fire hot?”
Ari’s father threw a piece of wood on the fire and fanned the bellows to re-light the coals. After the coals were glowing, he jabbed an iron bar in the fire, waited until it became white hot and pulled it out. Then, with the hammer he held in his right hand, he pounded on the sizzling hot metal.
Ari watched his father with a dismal frown. He hated iron work. Even though his father was a master sword maker for the King, he’d rather be in the forest studying his magic tricks or gathering plants for the Hermit.

So what did this beginning tell us about Ari? He's unhappy at what he does and wishes to be doing something else. Of course, he gets his adventure when he finds the puzzle box and tries to open it. To me, writing is an adventure and I get to travel with all my characters to unexplored places. Learning about characterization is an adventure of its own and creating a character out of bits and pieces is a challenge I invite you to continue on with. Have a great adventure!


1 comment:

  1. "... writing is an adventure and I get to travel with all my characters to unexplored places."

    Love that sentence! It is so true, even with art. I create the whole scene, and "live it", experience it. I can tell by reading your stories that they are not just some intellectual concept; but they sort of breathe give off a sense of "being", if that makes sense. They are not shallow black and white, but glow with Color!