Tuesday, October 14, 2014

October Tip: The Main Characters Readers Hate

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Our main characters are important. (I can hear you, "How important are they?" ;-) Without them, our readers have no door into the story, no way to experience the plot and setting. There are many ways to craft these important people. (Yes, they are 'people'! If they aren't real, who would want to spend any time with them?)

There are also a lot of ways to mess them up. Anne R. Allen has a great post on five ways writers mess up their Main Characters. If your MC falls into any of these categories, you need to rethink them.
  •  Mary Sue: The character who embodies the author's secret wish fulfillment. Readers find them too good to be true. And they're right.
  • The Special Victim: These characters are never at fault for their predicament and they're never the one who saves themselves. My take on this type of MC is to say 'ho hum.'
  • Perfect Pat: This character can do no wrong, reacts to everything with perfect gratitude, perfect skills, and is loved by everyone. Really? Again, this is a boring character.
  • Looky-Loo: When the protagonist is there to tell the story, never affecting the action, you have a Looky-Loo. The story would be better from a closer POV, in my opinion.
  • Literal Larry: This character is the one that tells every last event in their life until all the story is is one of unimportant, mundane action.
Now for the hard part? Just where in this list does our MC fall? I'll admit that my main character has been in danger of being Perfect Pat. I've had to dig into her dark side. Yes, my dear, sweet retired teacher has a dark side. She's a bit judgmental at times. She has a wicked temper that she doesn't manage to control all the time. And she's been known to blurt those little questions that we're never supposed to ask one another. Oops! And hurrah! Every time she falls into the less then perfect category, she grows another layer, another reason to cheer for her to climb back to her better self.

So, where does your MC fall? Are you looking at one of our feeble five? Or do you have a red-blooded person leading your story?


Next Week: Mini Book Reviews with everything from women's and literary fiction to an upper middles grade tale. See you In the Shade! ;-)


  1. My main character was a Perfect Pat until we found out she'd been keeping a secret from her husband for 30 years. Her 'persona' as a Perfect Pat was to make up for her past mistake and make it okay to not tell her husband.

  2. Karen, I know Perfect Pat! Mine needed to show her temper, how judgmental she was, and her general tendency to blurt inopportune questions. Good luck!

  3. I think it can be hard for a writer to see their MCs clearly. Now I'm worried mine might be a looky-loo. I've been trying to weed that out in this round of edits but it's so hard to see everything.

  4. Good post, ZanMarie. I think my characters are real, but this certainly gives me one more way to check.

  5. Sara, I know what you mean! I'm working on my Perfect Pat!

  6. J, The more you know...right? ;-)

  7. Oh! I wonder if that's what the editor meant when she called Lyne "predictable" -- that she was too perfect? Hmm...
    Thanks for the food for thought!

  8. Oh, goody!!! I do hope that idea helps you with Lyne, Deniz. I think the Perfect Pats are more numerous than the Mary Sues.


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