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Posts Tagged ‘Main Character’

I may be an exception here, but when I see people comment on another author’s works I cringe when I see the critiquer claim, your mc is too insightful for an eighth grader, or your conversation doesn’t sound like a fifteen year old speaking.

Not to be too harsh on YA novels or children’s books, but I think most people give children too little credit.  As a young adult I never read YA literature, with the exception of Harry Potter, because I always thought the voice of most works sounded forced, and most of the time the characters were far too shallow for me to care about.  I’m actually amazed to discover a children’s author I was forced to read when I was eight years old is a celebrated and widely known author.  She currently has a movie coming out based on one of her works, but as an eight year old I remember distinctly rolling my eyes and putting the book down because the main character wasn’t real to me, even though her body was going through the same changes as mine at the time.

I concede that adolescents are, in general, more self-centered than adults, but that doesn’t mean that they do not grapple with deeper issues than friends, their hair, or love.  Many of my classmates dealt with the loss of a parent, one or both parents on drugs, being the only one able to care for their younger brothers and sisters and/or abuse. 

Currently I have a younger sister in high school and a brother in middle-school, while they aren’t always insightful and worldly, when tragic events occur, or one of their close friends is upset, they have enough knowledge to recognize that something significant has ocurred, and know the people they care about enough to offer insightful advice.

I fear some authors confuse immaturity with lack of intelligence.  Just because a character is immature, doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent, it only means that when tragedy does strike, the character either deals with it in a healthy way, or a non-healthy way.  Either way, just like people, a character can mature greatly at fourteen years old, or stay stunted until they are ready to face their issues and mature.   

If a character is like a person, than it shouldn’t matter that my character is only seventeen years old.  If she is intelligent, and that’s the way I’ve alway portrayed her, the fact that she knows Saddam Hussein was part of the Ba’athe party shouldn’t be an issue when she brings it up in conversation.  This should only be an issue if I’ve established my mc as a person of average intelligence and nothing before hand has prepared the reader for the sudden leap in intellect.

I would advise any person writing for YA to be wary when  a critiquer comments on your dialogue.  Ask yourself if it fits in with the character you created.  Adolescents are people too.  Not all of them fit into the stereotype that has been created and perpetuated in this genre and not all of them are geniuses, but each one has the ability to be insightful, coherent and most importantly the capacity to grow.

Do you really remember how you were as a tween and teen?  Were you really as shallow as some of the YA characters out there?  When you write about your YA character do you only incorporate the surface issue teens face, or do you try to add a deeper set of issues for your character to deal with?

Oops, my pencil seems to have gotten away during my rant.  Perhaps some nice teenager will find it and return it to me.

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I’ve been working on the back story of one of my many mc’s and have enjoyed the way new layers have emerged and storylines unfolded. Really getting to know your mc and ultimate story he or she has to tell really helps navigate where you are going overall. Just after I completed this exercise, I knew exactly how many chapters I would have when I finished and how many sequels I wanted and needed.  I even have the themes and motives of the antagonist.

Knowing your mc also gives you a better idea and understanding of how the other characters parallel or juxtapose your character and his/her overall attitudes and opinions.

Yesterday, while writing I created a new scene with my mc on the spot.  I was having trouble connecting the scenes in my chapter and I realized it was because I needed to add another.  Sort of a transition scene.  I haven’t quite finished writing it yet, but I really like the way this scene shows a softer side to my mc and makes the next half of the chapter more believable.  At the same time, the small character’s back story hints at my mc’s past, while foreshadowing future events in the novel.

But, the title of my blog isn’t how to make your scenes connect, it’s Back story and What It Reveals About You.  So what does this minute character and my mc have in common?  The answer is me.  While writing the scene I gave the smaller character many of my same traits.  He’s shy, soft-spoken and struggles with self-esteem.  The reasons why he acquired these traits are different from my own, but he has them nonetheless.  

After writing this character I realized every back story and event leading up to the last showdown was a reflection of myself.  Every one of these characters is me.  Some of them represent how I feel, or how I’ve felt, while others actually reflect real events that have happened in my life and still others represent the goals I would like to achieve. 

Are they exact replicas?  No.  I’m writing a fantasy YA novel.  But without consciously sitting down and writing it out, I have told my life story and revealed the traits I value most.  Some of which I didn’t even realize until I started this brain teasing adventure.

I have long heard the phrase write what you know.  Many writers have attacked this advice siting fantasy and mystery novels to back their case.  To them I would say they have missed the point.   I didn’t write a play by-play of my life and my novel is a fantasy, but at the end of the day the story I have written is the one I already know.  Just dressed up a little a more and with a few demons here and there.  

I will never  know what it would be like to gather the souls of the dead, but I do know what it feels like to be isolated and alone.  The rest is research ;p

Oops, my pencil just rolled off the desk.  Please excuse me while I go and find it.

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