How To Liven Up Your Main Character


May 7, 2017


   Main characters. The star of the show, the heart of the story, and the most important character there is. Also, the very hardest character to write. Welcome to the fifth post in my How To Liven Up Your Character series.

(there is a spoiler for the Out Of Time series in point two, so do be aware of that - I don't want to be ruining books for anybody!)

post one: How To Liven Up Your Leader Character
post two: How To Liven Up Your Mentor Character 
post three: How To Liven Up Your Villain Character
post four: How To Liven Up Your Secondary Character 

How To Liven Up Your Main Character - Header Image

1. Keep Them Realistic


Katniss Everdeen, the main character from The Hunger Games
via Google Images
Your main character needs to be realistic. We need to be able to connect and relate with them and their journey - that's the most important part of a main character.And yet it's oftentimes the hardest part.
   Let's take Katniss Everdeen as an example. Katniss was born and raised in the rough life of District 12, and so she grew up as a survivor. She's a little suspicious and a lot tough, and she's used to looking out for herself. And with the way she lives, this is very realistic. If Katniss was raised in a different District, this might have changed - her life would have been easier, so her outlook would be different. But District 12 is a hard place to live, so Katniss grew up as a tough girl - but she's not above having feelings. This keeps her very realistic. I would have given her a few more flaws if I was her author, but that's neither here nor there ;). 
   Try to keep your character realistic according to the people around you - there's no real human who doesn't have feelings,and there's no real human who doesn't have flaws. Maybe your character grew up in a place where thievery was common, so they're unusually protective and paranoid. Or maybe your character has seen too many people that they love die, so they are overly protective of the people they allow themselves to get attached to. 

2. Give Them Opportunities To Turn Back


   You main character isn't going to just happily go along on whatever quest he's being sent on. He'll probably want to go back multiple times. He'll probably want to give up. He should want to give up sometimes - we want to cheer harder for a character that chooses to do hard things because it's the right thing to do.
   Parvin Blackwater is one of my very favorite main characters, and in A Time To Speak, she has so many opportunities to turn back. When she's being taken to Antarctica with the Radicals, the Council tells her so many times that if she'll just turn back, they'll give her what she wants. Instead of suffering with people she barely knows, she'll be with her family, and she'll be safe. But Parvin always says no, because she knows the difference between what is easy and what is right. And this makes her a deeper, stronger main character.
   Maybe your character gets taken away from their home, and they have to chose whether they'll turn back and give up what they believe in ... or go on. Maybe your character has to choose whether to unravel everything they've done, everything they've worked to do, because it's easier and safer ... or go on. Your main character needs to make some tough decisions.     


3. They Aren't The Villain - So Show Us How They're Different


Harry Potter, the main character from the Harry Potter series
via Google Images
   Why is the main character's side the right side to be on? Sometimes it's a very fine line - sometimes it seems like the villain could almost be right. You need to show us what separates the good guys from the bad guys - and, more importantly, what separates the main character from the villain.
   Let's look at Harry Potter, for instance. Harry, with all the powers he had, could have easily become the next Voldemort. So why didn't he? What set him apart from the villain of the story? It was the fact that he knew how (and was willing) to fight for someone other than himself. It was the fact that he was ready to make sacrifices for his friends and the people he loved  - and Voldemort wasn't, and never would be. The fact that Harry was able to be kind set him far apart from Voldemort.   
   How is your main character set apart from the villain? What makes us know that the main character will never become the villain? Your main character has to have lines that he or she will never cross, no matter what it comes to. Maybe they refuse to kill, and the villain will do it in the blink of an eye. Maybe they won't betray their friends, and the villain is betraying people left and right. Show us what sets the good guys and the bad guys apart.   

4. Make Sure That We Can Relate To Them


  Your readers need to be able to relate to the main character. Even if we can't relate so much to the minor or secondary characters, it's important that we can connect with the main one. They're the one who's head we're going to be stuck in the entire time - and trust me, if people don't like your main character, there's a good chance they'll end up putting the book down.
  Azalea from the book Entwined is a good example of a character we can relate to. Entwined is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princess, so Azalea has a whole gaggle of sisters - but when her mother dies, she has to step up into a role she wasn't quite ready for and become the eldest woman at the Palace. We can relate to her trying to carry a heavy load. And then Azalea finds out that the Palace they live in might carry a dark secret, and we can relate to her as she tries to save her family.
   What aspects of your main character are your readers really going to be able to relate to? Maybe your main character, like Azalea, has to try to protect their family from danger. Or maybe they have an obstacle that they need to overcome, and (if it's the right kind of obstacle) we'll be able to relate to them as they fight to overcome it.

5. Show Us Why They Choose To Keep Fighting


Frodo Baggins, the main character from Lord Of The Rings
via Google Images
   Why would someone do something hard for no apparent reason? I don't think your main character would, either. Your main character needs to have a reason for doing what they're doing. Show us why they choose to keep fighting - and if it's a good choice, we'll connect with him/her more.
   Take Frodo Baggins, for example. He had plenty of opportunity to throw up his hands and say 'I'm done! Someone else can go and save Middle Earth!', but he never did. Frodo kept fighting because when he looked in Galadriel's Mirror, he saw what would happen if he didn't. He saw his home burnt to the ground and his friends with no place to go. And he wasn't going to let that happen - and so he kept fighting. Your main character can't keep going without any good reason - you need to show us why he/she is continuing on!
   Maybe your main character just wants to see their sibling again. Maybe your main character knows that, unless they fulfill their quest, something or someone they love with lose their life. Maybe your main character has the chance to change the world, and they're not going to let that go to waste. Pick something that readers can relate to, and then show us why they fight. 

   While all these points are important, you need to write a main character that your readers are going to love. Your main character is the one who will make or break your story - and you need to make sure to write them right ;).

~ Savannah Grace

   What do you think is one of the best main character in literature? What's one of the hardest parts of writing a main character for you? (and are there any other character types you'd like me to post about? The series is almost done!)

31 comments :

  1. YAY Savannah did another character post! And this time with Katniss and Frodo in tow! =D

    One of the best main characters?!? I LOVE THEM ALL. Well, kinda. I started out NOT liking Alice Grace Ripley in Wonderland Creek, but I ended up loving her in the end. So.... I'm going to pick Parvin Blackwater. She's just awesome. =D

    The hardest part is making sure I don't put in too much of my MC's monologue. =D I don't know why, but they obviously want everyone to know what they're thinking!

    Micaiah
    www.notebooksandnovels.com

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this! And YES, Parvin is amazing - I love that series so much!

      My biggest problem with writing my MC is the fact that she is definitely NOT optimistic, and it's hard to make it seem like she's not moping all over the place. At least it's helping me learn how to write better characters xD. And I LOVE main character monologue! I'm so excited for when I can read one of your novels ;).

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  2. OMG NOW I NEED TO GO STALK ALL YOUR OTHER "HOW TO LIVEN UP YOUR ____ CHARACTER" POSTS BECAUSE THIS IS AMAZING. I'm planning a new novel right now (at least TRYING to) and this will definitely help out! I totally agree that a character needs to be relatable -- otherwise why would the reader care about what happens to them? But I never thought about showing how the MC is different from the villain! That is super insightful, in my opinion, and great advice! Thanks so much for this, Savannah! :)

    May @ Forever and Everly

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    1. OH MY GOODNESS YOUR COMMENT MADE ME GRIN SO BIG :D. And it's so cool that you're planning a new novel, I ADORE that stage of writing. What genre is it going to be in? And thank YOU for reading, May! :D

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  3. EEP. ANOTHER ONE OF THESE POSTS. I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!!!! And this one is soooo important. I think sometimes we tend to put more effort in OTHER characters and let the main character fall to the wayside. Because there's so much advice about "making sure your secondary characters have lives of their own" and "make the villain relatable" and so on. All VERY important advice. But I feel like the main character gets forgotten sometimes? So basically I just love this post! Because yes, if I don't like the main character, even if the whole rest of the book is amazing, I may not like it just because of that.

    I think the point you made about showing them how they differ from the villain is fantastic, and something I think a lot of. Because you can have two people who have gone through the exact same trauma, or have the same abilities, or what-have-you, but it depends on how they HANDLE these things that alter who they become. Something about that fascinates me, and makes me think about life a lot. o.o But anyways, I like it in stories when the MC and villain have the same background but chose different paths.

    And then soooo much yes to #5! Those stories where the main character keeps on and keeps on and KEEPS ON, even though nooooothing is going right and it's SO hard, always impact me the most. Such as Frodo and Sam never choosing to turn back and go home, no matter how awful their journey was. *clutches heart* It's just so beautiful and inspiring.

    I don't want this series to eeeend! Each post is just bursting with a wealth of wonderful ways to improve characters!

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    1. THANK YOU, CHRISTINE! I sometimes worry that people will find these boring, but apparently I don't have to <3. *whispers* I ... uh ... definitely tend to focus on the side characters more, haha xD. BUT I'm trying to take my own advice and make sure that the MOST IMPORTANT CHARACTER is actually the most important.

      "Because you can have two people who have gone through the exact same trauma, or have the same abilities, or what-have-you, but it depends on how they HANDLE these things that alter who they become." Oh my goodness, YES. I want to put something along the lines of those exact words into my novel so bad (if you'll let me?). It's SO true! *has a feeling I'll be pondering this for many days now*

      AW, THANK YOU! <3 <3 <3 We've still got two or three posts left, so you'll have those ;).

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  4. I love your character posts, Savanah! :D
    This one was especially good.
    -Gray Marie
    graymariewrites.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you so much, Gray! I'm glad ;).

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  5. YAS. So good. I love all the examples you gave. It makes it a lot easier to envision what you mean and how it's applied. :)

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    1. I have the focus span of a goldfish, so I normally need a good example thrown in to keep my attention - so I always try to add examples to my writing posts xD. Glad you enjoyed this!

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  6. WELL GEE SEEMS YOU'RE BLESSING A LOT OF PEOPLE HERE. xD I love how you are helping out the writing community, girl!! (and you really can't go wrong with a post including the notorious Frodo Baggins, amiright? ;))
    -Ariel

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    1. WELL GEE, THANKS, AWESOME SISTER. And everything is better with a Hobbit, don't you know? xD

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  7. Ooh, great post! I'll definitely remember this while I'm brainstorming "Anchored". I might try to re-read it with Kyle in mind. I'm also working on the villains in "Anchored", so I re-read your villain post recently, and it was SUPER helpful! I got one idea for relating one of my villains to another character, and if it works I think it'll be amazing. But, ya know, it might NOT. . . #HaveYetToTameMyImagination

    I think Frodo is one of my favorite main characters (because all the L.R. characters are epic!!), and I also LOVE Heather Stone--she is so real and relate-able!

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    1. "Anchored" sounds like it's going to be an amazing story! I can't WAIT until I get my hands on it - and I'm super glad that my character posts are helping you! (and OOH, do email me and tell me some of your thoughts! I might trade you snippets for spoilers ;))

      Heather Stone is amazing, I love that story so much. <3

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    2. Oh dear, don't tell me crazy author girl's bargaining again?? Please don't, because I CAN NEVER SAY NO TO HER. *sigh* Okay, we'll discuss it, if you're offering snippets. Plus, I think I found my sea monster, so I'm SUPER excited right now!!

      Yes, I love Counted Worthy! <3 I think it's made me cry more than any other book I've ever read, but apparently that makes me like a book? Because most of my favorite stories have made me cry. (*cough* Killing *cough* Snow)

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  8. GUUURRRRLLL THIS WAS AWESOME!!!!!
    I've been struggling with writing stories in the past, so these posts are super epic and super helpful!! I think it's super awesome that your helping people in this way(like Ariel said)!! =) Have a blessed day!
    Jaidyn Elise

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    1. THANK YOU, Jaidyn! I'm super glad that this was helpful - I love doing posts like this ;).

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  9. I LOVE this post series, Savannah--you're so good at giving writing advice!

    Hailey
    www.haileyhudson.wordpress.com

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    1. Thank you so much, Hailey! I'm glad you're enjoying it ;).

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  10. THIS IS SO GOOD AFDHKAJHDLAKJ PINNING THIS POST TO MY "WRITING RESEARCH" BOARD SO I CAN OBSESS OVER IT SOME MORE ALWAYS AND FOREVER :''''')

    rock on,
    abbiee

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    1. OHMYGOODNESS ABBIE, YOUR COMMENT MADE ME GRIN SO MUCH. THANK YOU FOR BEING EPIC, GIRL <3 <3 <3.

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  11. THIS IS SO GOOD. Main characters are allllways the hardest character for me to write. Saving this one for future reference! ;)

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    1. Yay! So glad that this was helpful, Madeline! :D

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  12. Oh my goodness!!!!! I love this! xD
    My favorite main characters in literature are the protagonists in the Narnia Books. ALL of them. lol They're relatable - they have feelings. They also make MISTAKES. The main characters aren't always perfect. Sometimes, they're the opposite!!!!!
    I'm a little biased because Narnia is my FAVORITE, but STILL. *looks at the series on her bookshelf* *hesitates* *reads them ALL* lol

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    1. Ooh, Narnia. <3 I love that series so much! I can't even remember the amount of times I've re-read that series, it's incredible. And I agree with what you said about the main characters! I love how C.S. Lewis wrote them, they're very realistic.

      Thanks for reading, GJE!

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  13. These posts are /invaluable/. Point three was something I'd never actually though about before and is actually kinda relevant to my current WIP... Thank you!

    ... That is an impossibly difficult question. Frodo, maybe? Or Aragorn. Or Llew. Or maybe Raskolnikov. 'Course, he's more of a villain...

    I think the hardest part is getting their voice right, especially in first person. Everybody ends up sounding the same!

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    1. Aw, thank you so much, Brianna! I'm glad that it was helpful ;). And Frodo and Aragorn, yes! I've never heard of the others - but they have awesome names!

      First person isn't normally the problem for me, but it's third person that gets me every time! It's hard to not make everything sound like it's dragging, haha xD.

      Thanks for reading, Brianna!

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  14. This is really helpful, Savannah!!
    People in general are really interesting to me, so my favorite parts of writing a story are the characters, and I definitely want them to be loved by my readers as much as I love (and hate ;)) them.

    -Cerra Cat-

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    1. Thank you, Cerra - I'm glad!

      "People in general are really interesting to me" - I think a LOT of writers feel that way :D. Characters are just so much fun!

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