Posted at May 2, 2020

How to Create a Main Character

Creating a main character for your novel isn’t easy.  So I’m here to help, because I’ve created a handful of those little guys, and trust me, it’s not so easy getting to know them.


First, it’s beneficial to give your character a name.  Let’s call him River.  Notice how this name is exotic, somewhat, so it automatically makes a reader associate this character with nature, water, currents, or force.  Never be afraid to do a little foreshadowing, and using a name as the foreshadowing subtly alludes to it all.  It adds the right amount of depth to a novel, giving readers something to munch on before the entree comes…


Second, consider River’s desire.  Why is he doing what he’s doing?  What is his goal?  And what–this is imperative–compels him to get out of his comfort zone, make the move, fight the fight, or set out on the journey that will reward him with what he’s been searching for?  No matter your plot, pick your character’s drive.  For example, River might be obsessed with history, therefore, his drive is to take a long journey to seek out the man who discovered *fill in the blank.*  Very simple, yet extremely serious stuff.  Without River’s drive, River is, well, dry.


Third, give your character something to be afraid of.  Something that makes him cower.  Something that shuts him down.  Sure, River is driven and compelled, but you have to make him human.  Part of creating a main character is that they CANNOT be perfect.  Everyone has flaws, and this means River does, too.  If he’s on his long journey across the world, give him the fear of heights, or ironically, water.  Better yet, make it an emotional fear from his past.  Maybe River is too afraid of dying, because he’s not ready to meet his mother.  He needs something to slow him down, and in reality, the very thing that slows us down is ourselves and our emotional, internal fears.


Fourth, to create a main character, he’s going to need a story.  River, for example, perhaps grew up without a mom, and with a dad who was never there for him.  He was on his own since age fifteen, picked up the hobby of reading, and became interested in history.  Now, here he is on the brink of discovery.  Whoever your ‘River’ is, make his backstory lead up to where he is now, and make sure it give insight to why he’s doing what he’s doing.


Fifth, give your character some quirks.  Everybody loves a strong character with a catch.  Have you ever found yourself being looked at funny for doing something you think is normal?  Give that quirk to your character.  Maybe River reads the very last chapter of a book before he begins, just to see if it’s worth the read.  Maybe River trims his toenails every Tuesday because he likes the alliteration of the T’s.  Or maybe he likes chocolate bars only if he can drink a diet Coke with it.  Who knows?  The author does.  Have fun with this!  Most quirks are cute, and they add wonderful development.


Sixth, spend time with your character.  I’m talking to you, Author.  In real life situations, consider how your character might react to certain things.  Does he get angry?  Scared?  Does he cry during arguments or shout?  Does he laugh at bad puns or make fun of them?  Spend some time with him.  Become his friend.  You’re the person who created him, so take a few days to get to know him.  Simply consider his reactions as opposed to yours, and you’ll have created your very own main character.


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