The Pointless Main Character

Character development is a known issue of mine. With very few exceptions, the majority of my main characters are uninteresting. They lack something. Some lack a backbone, which is odd given that I’m the one writing them. An amazing number of them lack any sort of drive or goal. Others just flat out lack personality.

Alexandra Williams, the main character of my favorite NaNovel that I’ve ever worked on (the one I’m currently trying to beat into something readable), falls into that second category. Originally, these weird guys roughly her age asked her to help them find one of her contemporaries, and she was only too happy to go along for the sake of going along. She had no other reason for being interested in the case.

Actually, she kind of reminds me of a character I once played in a pick-up game, one who could have happily remained at the tavern eating her dinner because there was absolutely nothing interesting to her about the events going on.

Unlike that character, though, Alex played her role well within the plot of the story. It could have been any other archaologist in the world, but Alex really made it her own little quest. Eventually, I revised things to a point where she was suddenly a decent choice for the job because the missing archaeologist was her father’s old friend and colleague, but Alex herself had little to do with the choice. If she’d had a sibling who was also an archaeologist, that sibling would have been just as valid a choice.

Even with the family connection, Alex’s only real reason for working on this particular case is because she was asked. And she comes out of it with a broken ankle and a better understanding of an obscure culture she’d never heard of prior to the story. Alex is a strong, confident young woman who makes it clear early on that she pretty much does whatever she chooses to do, and she just goes along with first a research assistant and then some scary guys roughly her age.

And she’s the protagonist.

I think Alex illustrates a lot about where my main characters fail, and she gives me a lot to think about while I’m trying to make her into a better character and trying to research character development. I sometimes wonder if I stay with this manuscript because I can see so many opportunities to learn more about crafting a good story.

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