Writing Process

Stuck on Character? Interview Your Protagonist.

Recently, I’ve gone back to working on my first YA novel.  I have had a long journey with this novel (five years to be exact), continually tinkering with it, simply because the novel hasn’t been good enough for me as an author to send out.  I was continually changing viewpoint, never completely satisfied, and I couldn’t understand why.

After having kept some distance from this novel, I could always look at it with fresh eyes.  Sometimes, however, as authors, we can still be too close to our work.  We need a different set of eyes to tell us what we can’t see.  I was told by an expert through a critique that the protagonist of this novel was ‘not quite there yet’.  My main character obviously needed more work.  The only way to go about it was by simply asking questions.

I made a list of all the characters within the novel, including minor ones and began interviewing them.  As I worked on this technique, I found myself getting inside their heads more and discovering what made them tick.  Along the way, I discovered that the second most important character within the novel was crying to be heard.  The best way I found for me to do that is to write in first person.  I began writing her words, continually asking her questions along the way.  By doing so, I wondered if she would become my new protagonist, however, my entire story would change, and that was not the story I intended to write.

By using this technique, I discovered new things about some of the minor characters, helping to add more conflict to the plot.  All that remains now is to use the same approach on my protagonist.   I’ll just have to ask the right questions.

Writing Process

Finding the Write Angle: A Different View.

When you look out the windows throughout your house you always get a different picture.  Changing the angle on a subject with a camera can also give you a different way of looking at something.  It’s the same scenario when changing viewpoints with characters in a work of fiction.

When writing the first draft of my young adult novel, I told the story from the viewpoint of my protagonist, but I felt something was missing.  The story was fine; it would engage the reader and keep them turning the pages, although, telling the story around a young girls’ death requires the readers’ sympathy.  The reader could sympathise with the protagonist, who was the best friend of the victim, but what about the victim’s family, and more importantly, the victim herself?  The reader needs to know that character, and the only way that can be achieved is if I allowed the victim to speak.

Having read some of the works by James Patterson (does that man ever experience writers’ block?) I can see why he is onto a winning formula.  Keeping his chapters short and telling his stories through the viewpoint of more than one character, not only engages the reader, but also makes them understand why a character acts the way they do.

So now I need to go back and write from the viewpoint of the victim, leading up to the time of her death.  I’m sure it won’t be a pleasant experience, but if I can write with great feeling for this character, then I’m sure to be on to something for my readers.

Image by Debbie Johansson.