“I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel…”

by Leigh Holland

There you are, flying by the seat of your pants, typing away. This idea is fantastic! Look at that word count go up! It’s amazing, it’s…and then you realize, you have no idea who you’re writing about. If you go too far without a break to think about who your main character is, you run the risk of creating someone who at worst, makes no sense to the reader and created apathy; or at best feels somehow incomplete. So, on your next break, you decide to jot down a synopsis of your character to keep on hand as you go forward.

What do we need to do to create and breathe life into the main character?

Here are some things you should build into your main character.

  • A Major Goal– All people want something. What does your main character want desperately? What would he or she sacrifice for? How does he plan to get it? Is what he wants not what he needs?
  • A Void– What’s missing from the character’s life? Are there multiple things outside of the major thing he wants? Most importantly- what is it the character needs and how does it relate to his perception of himself?
  • A Past– We don’t have to know the character’s entire past. But we should know three major events that shaped the character and how those things can return to haunt him. We need to decide how his past contributes to what he needs.
  • Appearance– What does she look like? How does she dress? Does she wear a signature item or color?
  • Convictions and Values– What does the character believe in? What will he take a stand for? What are his values? What does he value most?
  • Seven Personality Points:
    • Is your character open to new experiences? Is she imaginative and creative? Or is she closed and rigidly following rules, even if they are self-made?
    • Is he conscientious, making him well-organized and attentive to tiny details? Or is he distracted, missing details and taking life as it comes?
    • Is she extroverted and outgoing socially, the life of the party? Or is she introverted, preferring a cozy night in with close friends (or alone)?
    • Is he agreeable, expressing sympathy and compassion to others? Does he forgive his enemies? Or is he antagonistic, yelling at random kids to stay off his lawn?
    • Is he anxious, feeling nervousness, anxiety, or restlessness often? Or is he calm and level-headed more often?
    • Is she honest or dishonest?
    • Is he humble, preferring to stay out of the limelight and share the credit? Or is he arrogant, demanding the spotlight?
  • A Character Arc:
    • Positive Change– In this type of arc, the character changes and improves over the course of the story.
    • Negative Change– In this type of arc, the character changes but worsens over the course of the story.
    • Static Arc– In this type of arc, the character is the incitement for change for those around him. The character himself does not undergo change.
    • Resolute Change– And in this type of arc, the character’s attitudes and beliefs are reinforced, making the character more resolved than ever before, propelling him forward through the story.
  • A Name– This is debatable. There have been tales told wherein the name of the main character is never revealed. If you plan to name your main character, though, you’ll want to come up with one you feel fits the character persona you’ve created.

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