Over the years, I’ve been told that my secondary characters are far more interesting than my main characters. After hearing this from the same friend repeatedly, I finally started looking at my stories and seeing what she was talking about. I thought.
But it turns out that while I do have some stories where I clearly liked the secondary characters more than I liked the primary characters, it’s not the pervasive problem my well-meaning friend had made it out to be. Instead, I was telling stories through the filter of an observing character.
What does that mean? Well, it means that I may have been too much of a Dr. Watson fan as a child. No, no, no. I kid. It means that I like to write stories where the narrating character isn’t the protagonist. I like to tell stories from the point of view of a character who chronicles a sequence of events, or is in a position to react to what the protagonist is doing. I’m working on a story right now where the narrating character is subconsciously finding her own path through her teen years while passing judgement on how her sister is doing the same thing. Not entirely original, but it has actually provided a breakthrough or two for my writing. And it’s made me look more closely at how often I use this narrating character style and how I use it.
I personally am strongly introverted. A writer who’s introverted? How unique! I know. But one of the advantages of being introverted is that I tend to observe. A lot. Sometimes in a very creepy way (or so I’ve been told). And I like to work through what I observe by writing about it. I like to blog about what I’m seeing and how I’m perceiving it; or to share smaller observations on social media, again with some sort of personal analysis. I’m discovering I can explore a lot of what I see through fictional worlds and characters. But because it’s coming from me, the chronic observer, my narrating characters sometimes take on this somewhat aloof point of view. And I think it happens more often when I am trying to make sense of something I’ve observed, rather than just working from a prompt, idea, or story starter.
What about you? What personal ticks are you bring into your writing voice and techniques?