In every story, there’s obviously a main character. Sometimes there’s more then one, but it can usually be narrowed down to one person. This is their story. Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins, Katniss Everdeen, we all know them.
But sometimes when writing a story, the main character can have some problems. I’ve seen books with outstanding M.C and I’ve seen books with some less then outstanding M.C. So I decided to come up with a list of what I think makes a great character and what doesn’t work.
Since I plan to write young adult books, I’m going to use examples from other young adult books I’ve read. All these books I do not own, nor did I write.
A main character should be an important player.
I feel like this shouldn’t even need to be said, but I’ve actually read books where this is true. Name one? Shatter me by Tahereh Mafi. The main character Juliette has a lethal touch and has been locked away by the military to be used as a weapon and is slowly going insane. She wants to escape and convince herself and other she isn’t a monster, even though her touch can kill.
The only problem? She doesn’t make any choices. Everything which happens in the novel is shaped by other character’s choices. She just floats along with it. The author was trying to set her up as weak and fragile in the beginning of the series to show later how much she’s grown. Okay fine, but she’s the MAIN CHARACTER. She needs to do something!
I once read this thing about replace the main character with a sexy lamp and some words written on it, would it be the same? Sadly for this book, it really would be, as long as the lamp still kills by touch.
The main characters needs to be an active player. It’s okay if s/he doesn’t make every choice to shape the novel, but they need to drive the action. Don’t just have them sitting around doing nothing while everyone else makes choices.
The main character doesn’t need to be a special snowflake.
This plays into character cliches somewhat. I really really hate main characters who are oh so special. Example.
Opens minds by Susan Kaye Quinn. The idea for this book was very interesting. Everyone has evolved to be able to read minds, except for the main character who’s known as a zero. Until the book goes on (Minor spoilers) she leans she not only is part of an elite group with a semi rare power, she can do something no one else can.
Special snowflakes really piss me off. Yes, I get it, you want your character to be super cool and amazing and what have you, but I mean come on. Don’t make them the one in a billion with a super rare power. It’s just… Ugh.
Main characters should be likable.
We, the audience, are going to spend a lot of time with these people. Please, please, please, make them someone we want to spend time with. Nothing is worse then quitting a great book because the main character is awful.
Now there is exceptions to the rule, but you need to be an experienced author to pull this off. Not a YA book, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
The main characters in Gone Girl, are married couple Nick and Amy Dunne. And barely half way through, I found I hated both of these people. They’re awful, but it doesn’t matter, because Mrs. Flynn is such a talented author, you don’t care! The story is so good, She makes you want to hate these terrible people, she makes you want to see them both get what they deserve.
This is rarity and rules are meant to be broken, but unless you got the talent to pull it off, please give us a reason to root for this character.
The Main Character should stay important
I was reading the book, Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children by Ransom Riggs and it’s a great book. A grandson grows up hearing about a strange old orphanage from his grandfather. After the old man dies, he goes looking for answers and find interesting things. The author combines a great location with old photos to make a good story.
While I loved the story, the only problem I had was the side characters were great and very memorable, but the main character kinda… wasn’t.
Honestly, the only thing I can tell you about him is he’s a bit stubborn, curious and in the beginning of the book was trying very hard to get fired from his job for hilarious reasons. Other then that, I really can’t say much about his personality. I can talk all day about side characters, but not really about him.
I came across this in my own writing, as one of my secondary main characters suddenly became a very interesting and incredible character. But I had to remember why she has a huge part in the story, this is not her the story. The story belongs to the main character and to her alone.
This is about it for main characters. Anything character traits you think a M.C should or shouldn’t have? Do you agree with my list? Let me know.