Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series.
Find Jill on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.
Welcome to week five of #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays! I can't believe how fast this thing is going. We are already a month in. How are your books coming along? Let's do a GOAL CHECK in the comments in addition to today's assignment. Are you on track? Do you need to adjust your goals? Feel free to share your word count, updates on your storyworld, research, or map making. THIRST is at 9,904 words so far. I posted Chapter 3 yesterday over on my author website (click here to read it), and I really left my readers hanging. *evil grin*
Today's Topic: Main CharactersTo recap. Week one was genre (THIRST is post-apocalyptic YA). Week two was premise. Here's mine:
A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.
Week three was Storyworld. Week four, maps and floorplans. Today we're going to get to know our main character(s). Notice I didn't just say our protagonist. That's because you might have more than one main character. What's the difference?
The protagonist is the hero. It's his story. He is the one person who must change over the course of the story. He must have a goal that carries him through to the end.
Other main characters can have goals too. (And they should.) They can change over the course of the story. They can be a hero. They're a part of the story. But it's not their story.
For example, The Fault in Our Stars is a romance between Hazel Grace and Augustus. But the reader is always in Hazel's POV. She is the protagonist, while Augustus is a very important main character.
Point of view alone does not determine protagonist or main character status. In Harry Potter, even though the author occasionally shares another character's point of view, like Mr. Dursley or Frank Bryce, Harry is the protagonist of this series.
Some books have two points of view, like Achan and Vrell in my Blood of Kings trilogy. And while the book tells both of their stories, Achan is the protagonist and Vrell is a very important main character. Achan is the hero. It's his story.
Some romance novels have two protagonists. And that's okay. But with two protagonists, you have to make sure to give each one their own character arc. This can be tricky.
Some books have multiple main characters, like in my Safe Lands series. But I can tell you Mason is the protagonist, while his brothers and Shaylinn are main characters. This is true in my Kinsman Chronicles series as well. This is epic fantasy, where I can get away with many points of view. And even though Wilek is the protagonist of book one, Trevn is the protagonist of the series.
So today we're going to work on our protagonist(s) and any main characters. Next week we'll be talking about important side characters. Today we're focusing on lead roles here. You might only have one. You might have two or three.
To help determine who your protagonist is, ask yourself:
1. Who is the story about?
2. Who is the reader rooting for overall?
3. Which character wants something at the start of the story?
For main characters, note:
1. The story about this person too.
2. The main plot cannot work without this person.
3. This character might also have his or her own subplot.
Archived posts for creating characters:Character is arguably the most important part of a story. (Some people say plot is the most important.) But if you don't have an intriguing character to read about, people won't want to read your book! We've talked about characters on Go Teen Writers a lot, and rightly so. Here are some posts that might help you as you set out to create your most important characters.
5 Great Questions To Ask Your Character
Character Wants vs. Character Needs
How To Reinforce Your Character’s Lie
How To Find The Heart Of Your Character
How To Avoid Creating Repeat Characters
Write Characters Worth Caring About
Character Interviews: Are They Worth It?
Archived posts for naming characters:7 Tips For Naming Characters (for contemporary and historical writers)
Choosing Names For Your Characters (for spec fiction writers)
Archived posts for brainstorming character traits:Character Hobby And Skills Brainstorming List
Character’s Merits, Flaws, Or Fears Brainstorming Lists
How To Develop Your Character’s Skills Into Talent
The Character ChartI recommend creating a character chart for your protagonist. You can also do them for main characters, but it's important to know as much about your protagonist as possible. Here are some archived Go Teen Writers posts about character charts from me and Steph.
Character Charts (Steph’s Take)
The Character Chart (Jill’s Take) part one: initial descriptions and personality
The Character Chart (Jill's Take) part two: backstory, goals, and motivations
The Character Chart (Jill's Take) part three: tags and titles
The Character Chart (Jill's Take) part four: character roles
My character chart is always changing. Here is the most recent chart I've made. Click the picture to see it up close and to print, if you'd like. If the link doesn't work, click here.
Now, before you get too excited about filling out charts, I want you to answer a few questions about your protagonist(s) and (if you have them) main characters. (I'm stealing half of these questions from Steph's blog post 5 Great Questions To Ask Your Character.)
1. What does your character most value that he would never willingly give up? (Bonus points: Find a way to force him to give it away willingly during the course of the story.)
2. When your character wakes in the morning or falls asleep at night, what does he dream about? Worry about? What's always in the back of his mind?
3. What is his biggest weakness? How can he face that in the story?
4. What is his happiest childhood memory?
5. What is his worst childhood memory?
6. What lie does he believe because of that worst memory?
7. What trait does he long for in himself?
8. What can your character do at the end of the book that he couldn't do at the beginning?
9. What is the mantra he lives by? This can be something he says to himself. Or it can be something he does without even realizing it.
10. Introvert or extrovert?
Here is my main character. His name is Eli McShane. He is seventeen, from Phoenix, Arizona. He loves the outdoors, hiking and outdoor survival. He is the oldest of two and has a fifteen-year-old sister named Lizzie. I picture him looking a bit like Dylan Minnette. He's the quiet one. The smart one. The one who will likely save everyone's life if they'd all stop freaking out and listen to him. But he's not going to tell anyone what to do. Here are the answers to his ten questions:
1. What does your character most value that he would never willingly give up? (Bonus points: Find a way to force him to give it away willingly during the course of the story.) Eli values his faith and morals. They've never steered him wrong before, so when he and his friends become dependent on a group of people with different morals, he's going to have to make a tough choice.
2. When your character wakes in the morning or falls asleep at night, what does he dream about? Worry about? What's always in the back of his mind? Jaylee Jennings. He's pretty much in love with her. Only his best friend Zaq knows this. He would never tell her because then she would reject him. Eli figures it's better to keep the dream alive than live through the death of that dream.
3. What is his biggest weakness? How can he face that in the story? Eli's biggest weakness is speaking up, especially against someone bigger, louder, stronger, and cooler than he is. He's going to have to speak up later on when he and the group face life or death.
4. What is his happiest childhood memory? Camping with his whole family when his dad let him plan the day's activities.
5. What is his worst childhood memory? Getting picked on for being small.
6. What lie does he believe because of that worst memory? That he isn't enough to be a leader. He does better in the shadows, taking care of himself and helping where needed.
7. What trait does he long for? To be confident and respected.
8. What can your character do at the end of the book that he couldn't do at the beginning? Speak up for himself against someone bigger, louder, stronger, and "cooler" than he is.
9. What is the mantra he lives by? This can be something he says to himself. Or it can be something he does without even realizing it. If you get there first (get done first), you're not a loser.
10. Introvert or extrovert? Introvert. But the story will force him to speak up and become a leader, even thought he'd rather stay in the background.
*NOTE: Numbers 4 and 5 are too simple as I have them now. Both those events shaped who Eli is, so I need to flesh those out into full-on powerful memories with scenes, actions, and words that he will remember forever.
1. Write a short paragraph introduction about your protagonist and (if you have them) each of your main characters.
2. Answer the ten questions above for your protag and main characters. Bonus if you print out my character chart (or your own chart or any other chart you prefer) and fill it in for your protagonist and any main characters. You don't have to fill in every blank. It's to help you, not drive you crazy. *wink*
3. Find a picture of your protag and main character(s). These could be celebrities (actors, athletes, singers) or people you know.
4. Post your introduction in the comments so we can all meet your protagonist. If you have important main characters, you can post an intro for them too, if you'd like. Also, give us a GOAL CHECK so we know how you're keeping up with your plans.