Is it just me, or do main characters always seem to be the right one to tell the story? I mean, there is a reason for that. You want your reader to like your main character. You want it to be relatable. You want to tell the story through the best eyes possible. But there’s more to it than that.
Today we’ll talk about choosing who will tell your story. Who the main character is. This is something that might take some consideration. I know many writers start out with a story based around a protagonist, someone that is obviously going to be telling the story. Someone who makes a change in the plot. Someone who is essential for the entire story to actually happen.
Of course, the narrator isn’t always the main character. But even in most of the stories like that, the reader tends to see the story through the eyes of that chosen main character verses any other character.
And there are stories told through the eyes of many characters, but those stories tend to be parallel rather than focusing on one story. Those tend to be several smaller stories. Today we’re going to push those aside, or think about each of them as their own story instead of one huge one. We’ll get to parallel structure in another post.
Some writers already know who their main character is for their story. But some only may know a basic story line or a time and place. They might have an idea of adventure but aren’t sure who should embark on it. The story might already have a decided main character, or it may not, but either way you should stop and make sure you are choosing correctly.
Right now you might look at your story one way, but it has so much potential. Let’s think of it like a family’s story. The daughter has a rebel streak. The son is being bullied at school. The mother is working from home. The dad is starting up a business. Add or subtract family members to make it more realistic and have more variety, but I’ll just use this for now.
Maybe you originally planned to tell the story with the daughter as the main character. Maybe you originally wanted to tell how she falls in love or gets into drugs or eventually comes to her senses and makes apologies to the people she’s hurt. That would be a good story. Don’t get me wrong. But think about how your telling it. Sometimes, it’s about the story, but sometimes it’s about the characters. If it’s all about the characters, think about what other stories you might find.
Twist it up. If you tell a story through the eyes of the son, then you could be telling a story about a boy who is being bullied. Maybe the story is about how he goes to the same school as his rival sister and they have to coexist in the same hallways. Maybe he’s trying to pull her back to who she used to be. Maybe he is trying to fit in.
Tell the mom’s story. Maybe something is happening with her that challenges her ability to get through to her daughter. Maybe she’s having trouble keeping up with everything. Maybe there’s something to spark a story about the challenges of parenting. Tell the story through the dad’s eyes. How he’s working and hopeful so he can provide for his family. Or maybe he isn’t happy and wishes he had chosen a different path for his career. Maybe he tries to change that.
Do you see what I mean? If you have a collection of characters, look at them. Look at what they are going through. Even if you don’t decide to change the point of view of the story, maybe you still decide to add to one of the other character’s stories. Maybe you decide to make their subplot more interesting and less cliche. Maybe this will spark something for a piggy back novel or a sequel.
My challenge for you is to look at your characters. Look at the stories. See if you might need to be writing a different story from a different character in the same world. Maybe the same story from a different character. And even if you keep the perspective the same, still take a look.
Look at a character, any character. Now pretend that you are going to write a story where they are the main character. Think about what they would do and who they would be and everything in between. Maybe it will get complex. Maybe you want to switch them to be the main character. Maybe not. Maybe you can pull this story in for a subplot, or even simplify it a little to get it there.
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!