The Perfect Main Character
In January, I decided to start a series of posts called “Lessons Learned the Rejection Way,” hoping I might be able to help other writers by tossing out a few of the reason I’ve received rejections in the past...and, okay, maybe in the not-so-past as well.
Today, I’m focusing on characters, the main character to be precise.
You have to a find a happy medium for your character when you create them. They have to be perfect…but not too perfect, strong…but not too strong, soft…but not too soft. In other words, they have to be likable enough a reader will cheer for them to succeed.
One heroine I created was a woman who’d been stuck raising her four younger sisters when she was nineteen. I was so careful to make her dominant and willful, someone who took care of business. Well, I guess I overdid it a little, because the rejection that came back said something like, “The heroine isn’t very likable. She’s bossy and treats her sisters like children, though they are grown women now.”
The next heroine I turned in to that same publisher was struggling between still wanting to be a good daughter to the father she adored, yet falling for a man she knew her dad despised. But that rejection went more like, “The heroine isn’t very likable. She’s too weak and lacks interior motive.”
Ironic, huh? I wrote overboard on one woman and, uh, under board (for lack of a better term) on another. Sigh. I’m not sure when I passed that happy medium. But, both responses definitely opened my eyes. Readers—and publishers too—want a likable protagonist, someone strong that can stand up to the forces raging against them, but someone likable that the reader will cheer for, but also someone fallible they can actually relate to.
So, how is your main character coming along? Does he/she have plenty of struggles to face, and is she/he facing them in a way that a majority of readers will approve of? Would you like this character if you knew them personally, or would you think her/him too shallow, too stupid to live, too mean, too silly, too perfect?
Yet one more thing to consider when submitting your manuscript to an editor or agent. Good Luck!