Thursday, August 26, 2010

How do you...

... Pick A Main Character?

As I've discussed in previous "How do you..." posts, before my fingers ever touch the keyboard to type the first page of a novel, I have already created character spreadsheets and given them awesome names (full of awesomeness, obviously). That means I know exactly who I'm going to be writing in, right?

Uh, not so much.

There's been this lovely new trend in publishing lately and that it to have multiple main characters. So while I may start writing in one perspective, I might realize that we are missing something completely without another voice. So I guess the more truthful answer to my question is yes, I know who ONE of my MCs is going to be but the rest is up in the air.

For my current WIP out in the hands of betas, the story is told in alternating perspective between Blake (the female protagonist with all the paranormal stuff happening to her) and Aiden (the male protagonist trying to figure out what the heck is happening to Blake). Now besides the fact that I get to write in two separate voices so it's like writing two different novels at once (and keeps my attention better), when I first starting writing this novel I realized it needed Aiden's voice.

The reason why?

Blake's not a very likable gal. I mean, she's alright but she's not in a very good place when the novel starts out. So I decided to add in another voice that will showcase the good in her. By adding in this second male voice, the story ended up expanding and was enriched by his voice. Also, because the paranormal elements aren't directly happening to him, Aiden's perspective really helps to ground the novel in reality.

All of a sudden my novel went from one voice to two and that opened up a word of possibility for me.

So what about you? Do you know how many MCs you'll have and who they are before you start writing? Or do you jot down a bunch of characters, give them all a test run and then find the right one? Have you ever finished a novel only to realize it's in the wrong person's POV?


  1. Linger is the first that comes to my mind - It was told in 4 perspectives - Sam, Grace, Isabel, and Cole. Isabel and Cole are not particularly likeable characters, but their perspective really adds depth to the book. Plus they give you a break from the protagonists.

  2. I like books with multiple protagonists if it is done well, particularly with Jodi Picoults books. And yes, I have finished a novel and realized I hated my main character and it should be told from her older sister's perspective instead.

  3. Well, I tend to write in the first-person POV, so I always focused the narrative around one character, anyway. But maybe this also has something to do with the way I brainstorm. Usually, I'll get a kernel of an idea, then start thinking of the characters while I'm trying to figure out possible plots. Mostly, I just wonder, "Who does this situation suck for the most?"

    From there, I usually have my POV character. :)

    Of course, I have sort of been thinking about adding an extra POV character in my next novel. I have to admit, I'm a little freaked out by it.

  4. Danielle, that really stinks! It would kill me to have to rewrite an entire book in someone else's POV. I bet that once you did though, it became a stronger novel.

    Feliza, I say go for it! I loved writing in two perspectives. Like I said in the post, it sort of spoiled me because it felt like i was writing two novels at once. By the end of the chapter, I'd grow tired with a voice and got to switch to someone else for a little while. I'm just sad my next novel is only in one POV (though I love this POV so not TOO upset)!

  5. Alison, I haven't read Linger yet (my copy just shipped form Amazon like yesterday...) but I know I loved that Shiver had two POVs. It made for a much interesting read!


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