Perhaps the most essential component of your novel is not plot, nor setting, nor action, but your main character or protagonist. You can have the most intricate plot, the most exotic setting, and spine-tingling action, but without your main character to interact within all of this things would fall pretty flat. Let’s face it, without your main character you have no story.
So, how do you create your main character? What you don’t want to do is have a caricature. For example, in your action adventure novel your square jawed, clear eyed hero takes on a half dozen muscle bound bad guys in a dark alley and dispatches them all while hardly breaking a sweat or getting a wrinkle in his $1500 suit. Or, in your police procedural your cerebral detective deduces the identity of the killer with a cursory scan of crime scene and a superficial interview of a few witnesses. Unless your goal is satire, those type of protagonists sound pretty unrealistic.
To have a well-rounded main character it’s a good idea to develop him or her on three levels. The three I use are: the superficial appearance, how others see the protagonist, and how the protagonist sees herself. These three areas, if done right, will give you a well rounded main character. Let’s look at each in some detail:
Before you begin writing your novel it might be a good idea to sit down and define your main character with these three parameters. You’ll get to know that character much better and you’ll exhibit greater depth in your writing.
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