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My mess–uh, I mean protagonist–needs help!

Forums Fiction Characters My mess–uh, I mean protagonist–needs help!

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  • #30884
    Elizabeth
    @elizabeth

    Story time.

    A few months ago, this character popped into my head. Her name, for the first few weeks, was simply “princess”, because that’s what she was. Quiet and shy around her mother and father, fiercely brave around her comrades. Soon, my princess became a soldier, too, and she got a name–Evyn. Evyn Quin.

    I’d already written three chapters of my WIP when a terrible realization hit me: this was not who Evyn was supposed to be. She wasn’t supposed to be content sitting in a castle, waiting for tea parties and dress fittings to happen in between raids and killing monsters. She was supposed to be different, more dynamic, and what’s worse, as that discontent came to light, it unveiled a restlessness that encompassed the entirety of my WIP. None of it felt right.

    So I dropped everything, sat on my WIP for a few more weeks, and changed all of it. Mostly.

    Fast forward to now, a few months later. I have no chapters written, and a few scribblings in my notebook, not a real outline, not yet. Evyn is…well, she’s a mess. She’s brave, reckless, stubborn, and loyal. She’s a leader of a group of freelancing monster hunters who help to protect her city and she’s proud of that, but she also carries around a lot of bitterness from her past, so she walks around with a lotΒ of anger inside her. In some ways, she’s more dynamic now than she was a few months ago, but somehow she’s this huge, shapeless mess in my head, and I can’t pin her down. Or the rest of the story, for that matter–but let’s just focus on her now, ‘kay?

    So, Story Embers people, *grins* teach me your ways. How do you pin down characters who don’t want to be pinned? How do you go about creating a character arc for someone like this? Help, please, I’m dyinΒ over here. Help me get this idea out of my head!

    INTP. Writer of fantasy and sci-fi. Wannabe artist. Anime geek. Merakian.

    #30895
    Sam Kowal
    @sam-kowal

    @elizabeth Hmm.

    Yeah.

    Let me just say ‘hmm’ because I’m still thinking.

    Okay.

    She’s a ‘huge, shapeless mess’, so I think in that case she needs some focus. If dear Evyn is too sprawling, try cutting down her character to two or three of her most essential traits. The things that hold up the foundations of her entire personality, and then work up from there. Foundation first. If you don’t know what those are, then… πŸ˜€ invent them.

    Also, this is something else I’ve thought of; yearning. What are her goals on the outside and what is the one thing on the inside deep down she wants most? If you figure that out and then have her looking for that, searching for that, and trying to get that, Evyn will get a lot more focus and will feel like less of a mess

    Lastly, it sounds like you sort of tore her apart (*cough* that sounded morbid) and reinvented her for your rebooted WIP but you haven’t fully met her yet for the new version. Is she still quiet and shy around her mother and father? And if so, why? That must have something to do with her personality or backstory, and imply some kind of conflict that needs to be resolved. You could try having her write a character monologue, where Evyn just talks for awhile, to help you nail her down. Another thing is (although I don’t know much about this) is asking ‘what is her Experiment in Living in relation to the story’s theme?’ That’s important because your story’s theme should have questions, and each character should be an experiment with those questions. If that all fits together it should sculpt something definitive out of Evyn. I’m hoping another Emberling can talk a bit more about that who can give you some expert tips

    *nom, nom, nom* *eats donuts*
    Oh, are you hungry? *begins weeping*
    I would have saved you one!

    #30898
    Elizabeth
    @elizabeth

    That’s definitely a lot to think about it. I appreciate it, Sam! @sam-kowal

    INTP. Writer of fantasy and sci-fi. Wannabe artist. Anime geek. Merakian.

    #30909
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @elizabeth Is there any chance that this character is a sensor? Just asking because I had trouble figuring out an ISTJ POV character a couple months back and Kate and I talked about it and she said something like that it’s common for N writers to have trouble figuring out S characters because they’re so different.

    πŸ˜€
    πŸ‘•πŸ‘
    πŸ‘– 🐒🐒🐒🐒🐒

    #30910
    Elizabeth
    @elizabeth

    Now that you mention it, possibly? Kate typed her as an INTJ, but I don’t know enough about S-types to be able to properly distinguish the two, though from what I do know, she could definitely be an ISTJ. @daeus-lamb

    INTP. Writer of fantasy and sci-fi. Wannabe artist. Anime geek. Merakian.

    #30911
    Elizabeth
    @elizabeth

    Which…now that you mention it, my inability to really understand her character makes a bit more sense, because I’m definitely no J. @daeus-lamb

    INTP. Writer of fantasy and sci-fi. Wannabe artist. Anime geek. Merakian.

    #30913
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @elizabeth Actually, INTJ sounds spot on, though that’s just based off the little you’ve said of her. SheΒ might be an ISTJ.

     

    πŸ˜€
    πŸ‘•πŸ‘
    πŸ‘– 🐒🐒🐒🐒🐒

    #30914
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    The J/P difference isn’t as dramatic as the N/S difference, though it still might cause some small issues.

    For an INTJ, think of iron for how their brain feels (metaphorically). Very un-frantic.

    πŸ˜€
    πŸ‘•πŸ‘
    πŸ‘– 🐒🐒🐒🐒🐒

    #30916
    Elizabeth
    @elizabeth

    Right. I really just don’t know. @daeus-lamb

    INTP. Writer of fantasy and sci-fi. Wannabe artist. Anime geek. Merakian.

    #30926
    Sam Kowal
    @sam-kowal

    @elizabeth Are you already familiar with all that stuff, by the way? Sometimes I assume when I’m learning them, other people must be too, and I forget all the different levels of writing education people have had.

    *nom, nom, nom* *eats donuts*
    Oh, are you hungry? *begins weeping*
    I would have saved you one!

    #30954
    Elizabeth
    @elizabeth

    Most of it, @sam-kowal though that’s really by definition only. I don’t know if I’ve ever consciously written those things. Outlined them, maybe, but I always get tripped up when it comes to the actual writing.

    INTP. Writer of fantasy and sci-fi. Wannabe artist. Anime geek. Merakian.

    #30974
    Lynn Renard
    @missfaeriekaiti

    My big thing when it comes to figuring out characters is figuring out what they want more than anything. One of my characters wants to find a middle ground in an argument of extremes that has plagued him his whole life. Another character wants to serve and protect his family (to the detriment of himself). And my MC in that work wants to find redemption for herself and others.

    What does your MC yearn for more than anything else in her world? Acceptance? Peace? Vengeance? Escape?

    It is, of course, possible and sometimes necessary that that main desire change over the course of the story, but it should give some direction in which you can begin.

    Happy writing! <3

    Lady Authoress: INFx.

    #30996
    Gabrielle Pollack
    @gabriellepollack

    @Elizabeth I’ve struggled with this on and off. It might help to discover her goals, motivations, values, and their origin. Discovering what she wants in a story is all well and good, but the why behind the goal digs a bit deeper. Then, you’ve got to consider the values/worldview that lets her believe in the why. Then all that needs to have some origin in your character’s past.

    Say my character’s goal is to kidnap a child from heir abusive foster parents. That’s great, but why? She wants to do this because it’s the right thing to do. Because she thinks she must stand up for the helpless.

    Or perhaps there’s a deeper motivation. Perhaps she wants to take care of this kid because it might redeem her from a past mistake (like failing to stand up for a bullied kid at school who later committed suicide).

    Anyway, that motivation springs from values and believes. this girl believes that children are supposed to be treated well. She knows hurting the helpless is wrong. She might believe that works can justify or erase past mistakes.

    Then those values and beliefs must have an origin in her backstory, like her failure to help the bullied kid at school. It’s all connected.

    That wasn’t the clearest example, but I hoped it helped a little XD.

    I’d also second talking to your character :). That’s always fun.

    #31000
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @elizabeth


    @gabriellepollack
    mentioned backstory and I just wanted to sayΒ yes. I used to not care about backstory and I still don’t think it is important for most characters, but if you’re having trouble with a character, digging into their backstory will probably be really helpful. Plus, the cool thing about backstory is that you can always bring it back into the story for an epic plot twist.

    πŸ˜€
    πŸ‘•πŸ‘
    πŸ‘– 🐒🐒🐒🐒🐒

    #31006
    Elizabeth
    @elizabeth

    @gabriellepollack @daeus-lamb thanks, guys.

    INTP. Writer of fantasy and sci-fi. Wannabe artist. Anime geek. Merakian.

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