Hello again Everybody,
Thanks for joining me this week!
Today we are going to be talking about something that'll hit a little close to home. Because, if you're anything like me, you love your Protagonist/Main Character. Yes we love all our characters in their own way, but the MC has a tough job. They're the ones that do the most growing, that suffer the most loss, and eventually go back to a world that is nothing like it used to be. Not to mention they're the ones we want our readers to sympathize with, root for, and love more than any of the others.
They already have it pretty tough.
However, I believe it is this mentality that causes us writers to take away the very scenes that make our MC "real". As writers we tend to be too nice to our MCs. We put them in a bubble throughout the story and let our minor characters handle the less desirable plot points. Because of this our MC ends up taking a back seat in the narrative. Which really doesn't make any sense.
So, here are some ways that you can take your MC to the next level.
#1 Let Your MC Lose
And I don't mean the small loses. Like losing a game of chess to the best friend character. That kind of thing might be good for character development purposes but right now I am talking about the big loses. The ones that make your MC question their worth as the hero of the story.
These kinds of loses usually entail the death of a friend or loved one. They make the MC crumble in on themselves as they struggle with the lose.
If you want to take it one step further, make the MC directly responsible for the death. Such as having them chose to go into a trap after having been warned against it. Or making a deal with an enemy even when they knew they couldn't be trusted. It has to be something that they can say "This was my fault" to and have the reader (at least partially) agree.
What to watch out for:
Easy recovery. It's true that too much sorrow will leave the story at a stand still, but a too quick recovery will make the loss look trivial. So, let your MC feel it.
#2 Let Your MC Do The Wrong Thing
This isn't the kind of accidental wrong like the ones mentioned above.
These wrongs are things everyone knows are wrong. They are the times when the character lies, when they steal or when they betray their friends. Yes, they probably have a "good" reason. Even so, they know, and the reader knows, that they are just fooling themselves.
These are the times when the reader shakes their head and asks the character "what are you doing". And these are the set ups for the MC's triumphant return to the right path.
What to watch out for:
Easy dismissal. Big or small, betrayal destroys trust. The human response is to shut out the traitor. If your other character do welcome you fallen MC back with open arms, be sure to give them a reason. This can be something in the other characters belief system, such as Christ's edict to his followers to forgive, or something in the other character's personalities. Whatever it is, it has to be believable.
#3 Force Your MC to Make a Terrible Choice
Life is all about choices.
Some are easy and some are hard.
And some are absolutely devastating.
In a novel there needs to be a few of each but the third one must be the one handled with the most care.
Your MC needs a chance to make the wrong choices because it is their path after they make those choices that brings about their character development.
As you can see, most of the above mentioned steps leave your character less than sparkly. In fact, most of them are things the villain would do. (Hence, the title of the post.) ;) That is it exactly. You have to let your MC be a little villainous, as all people are. To give them the chance to take the same path as your antagonist, because it is the fact that they don't take that path, the fact that they chose a better way, that makes them the "good guy".
If you can think of any example where an MC takes the wrong path in a novel, whether they keep on that path or have a triumphant return, I'd love to hear it.