So here I am, at the end of my first draft and I am finally.... FINALLY able to see my main character... mostly.
It's been a journey and I think I wanted to share mostly because I think that a lot of courses and instruction on the craft says that you should know all these things before you get to start writing and creating. What's their favorite color? What terrible childhood trauma made them the way that they
are? What are their quirky yet adorable habits that convey deep, literary meta messages? It's all a bit much!
And, I have to admit that I often felt like I couldn't write because I didn't have the skill to figure all of this out before I started writing.
But then I remembered that the only real difference between writers and non-writers is that writers write. So I began to write. When I wasn't sure what to do or where to go, I would talk to a dear friend until a really good (read terrible) idea came forward that I could use and I would keep writing.
At the beginning of my writing, my main character was flat and I couldn't make commitments yet to who she was, what her deal was, and why she was even there. She was a vehicle for the story to be told and the plot to move along. Now that I'm nearing the end, I see clearly that she is a little bit terrible and that is a wonderful revelation. I have given myself permission to have a protagonist that isn't essentially perfect.
Now the real work begins. I need to edit with the improved version of the character in mind. It's my first full-length novel so I'm not surprised there are some major gaps in skill, but the truly wonderous thing about writing is re-writing.
I suspect this is a big part of learning the craft for me. I was afraid to make a mistake with a decision so I didn't make any decisions. That left the character a bit bland and uninteresting. Now, however, I see that these things will evolve no matter what I decide, but the reading will be a lot more interesting along the way if I have more depth to my characters and I'm getting better at making those decisions earlier and earlier. When I do make those decisions the writing becomes more enjoyable. The characters that have been filled out are the characters I want to write more about. I've previously written about character dossiers as a tool, but would love to hear more about making character decisions. Let me know your favorite approach in the comments below.