Thursday, September 9, 2010

Secondary character is more interesting

Hey there blog readers,

If you've been reading my blog, you know that I've been writing a novel. Here is an update. My novel is going very slowly, especially since I just found out that my character development sucks. So I've been brushing up on my skills... and I also procrastinated. But now I'm seriously typing away again. And do you know what I've discovered?

My main character is boring.

Not only that, but one of my secondary characters is starting to seem more interesting. There's a part of me that's now thinking that I should rewrite the novel with her as the new main character. But there's two problems with this:

1) This secondary character is supposed to be sort of mysterious, and making her into the main character will put her in the spotlight, which will make her less mysterious.

2) I'm too lazy to rewrite the whole thing, even though I haven't even finished the rough draft yet.

So after much debate, I decided to keep my MC as my main character. However, my secondary character will now start playing a vital role in my novel. Although I hope that my MC will be less boring.

So here's the question to you blog readers. Do you ever get the feeling that your characters are taking on a life of their own? Because there is a part of me that thinks that my secondary character wants to kill my MC and take the main role of my novel, even though she wasn't that important in the first place.


  1. Haha that would be cool if your secondary character did do that, even cooler if you twisted it so that she comes after you next and then end the book as if she's going after the reader...

    Hmm, I think that has actually happened to me before (not the crazy author paranoia, mind). I had a secondary love interest that turned out more interesting than the main one, and I wanted to just rewrite the whole thing so that he ended up with her.

    Those dang characters! So unruly :p

  2. I had a similar experience in my novel.

    Funnily, this particular character did not even exist in the original planning stage until just before starting the first draft, where he was to be a minor character. By the time I finished the book, he had pushed his way forward into the limelight. I remember having this moment of "Wow, he's more interesting than my main character!"

    On the positive side, he has helped to further develop the story and has actually become essential in moving the plot forward.

    I did toy with making him the main character, but decided against it. He will remain a major character to the plot, and as I'm editing I am working to improve my main character.

  3. You're right, some characters just have a mind of their own. When you hit the right notes on a particular character, the development almost happens without even thinking about it. However, when that does happen you should pat yourself on the back, because that means you have raw talent many other people would be jealous of. The ability to create a wonderful character without putting forth any effort is a gift.

  4. That happened with one of my books. My second character was way more exciting than the main. However, you must make your main character more interesting or the book won't do well.


  5. I have a character like that. When I first created him, he was just meant to be a temporary love interest for my MC. There for a couple of chapters and gone.

    He's managed to develop himself in such a way now that I've given him two of his own novels, and made him the son of the goddess Artemis.

    I don't think your main character has to be interesting, though. They can be as plain and average as typing paper, as long as the events around them are intriguing, and the characters they interract with keep them on their toes.

  6. It definitely happens! As long as the character doesn't want to kill you, you're okay :p

    I always end up going back to the beginning of my ms and changing the characters, because they become totally different people by the end.

    And I agree, there's nothing wrong with a boring MC, especially if they make the action/other characters more interesting or exciting. And it's realistic. Life is full of boring people.

  7. Hey John, great post. Eric Trant posted about this a while back. I think the title was something like 'things my kids teach me about writing'. One of them was having a hard time figuring out who the main character was in an X-Men movie. Because the other (not main) character was cooler.

    It was still a hit.

    Thanks for sharing this!
    ~that rebel, Olivia

  8. Your situation makes me think of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Although Holmes is the main character, Watson, a less interesting character, is the narrator. By keeping some distance between the narrator and the MC, Doyle was able to keep Holmes a man of mystery.

    Have you considered interviewing your MC to find out what he/she wants, needs, and fears? What are his/her goals and motivations? Maybe you can rediscover what made you want to write about him/her in the first place.

  9. Oh, that happens to me all the time. In my current MS the main character seems flat, and I adore one of the secondary characters. I keep thinking about HIS story (which in a perfect world would be the sequel ot my WIP). I know I need to work on my MC, but I keep getting drawn back to the awesomeness that is the secondary character. I think for me, I had the story/plot/action completely envisioned, but the characters were more placeholders. I'm still working on getting into their heads. Good luck!

  10. I wish my characters would just behave! I actually went the other route and replaced my MC with a minor character, because she was far more interesting. Good to know it happens to everyone!

    Good luck!

  11. My characters take on a life of their own all the time. If they don't I sort of don't write them (I've tried to force them to talk to me when they don't do it on their own, and it has had less than stellar results).

    But I kind of love it in a way, I like when I find out stuff about them that I hadn't guessed before, their motives, their pasts.

    A couple of years a go I had this two characters and I had pegged Him to be in love with this girl, and that he saw Her (the other character in question) as a little sister, but then I was in the middle of writing a scene when they were both just sort of there, and the words flew out and before I knew it I had found out they were actually in love with each other.

    I kind of love when my characters do that. Not that it doesn't cause trouble from time to time but it's kind of fun, over the years I've learned not to be afraid to delete and start over. However, unless it's essential I try to avoid it, 'cause I'm sort of VERY lazy too.

    :D Good luck!


  12. Hello from the hop. Sometimes I think we just spend so much time with the MC that they lose their appeal for us and we start looking elsewhere. However maybe a reader wouldn't find them as boring. Hard to say.

    Good Luck!

    Rachel 1001 Books

  13. It's actually rather common. It fact, sometimes the secondary character is the protagonist of the work, and the narrator will be unimportant. Write what you find interesting.

    When I was writing my first novel, I came up about 25K words short of where I wanted to be. I didn't want to add filler, so instead I took a page from Tarantino and started writing a new plot to weave into the first. I used a secondary character that I liked as the main for the new plot. Unfortunately, this wasn't enough to save the book, and I sent it to the vault. But it was a good idea, and the second plot- had I finished it- might have come out better than the first.