Do you ever feel your interest in your own writing is renewed after reading a good piece of someone else’s work?
I’m not sure what it was–the tone, the setting, or simply the quality–but after finishing a WOTF contest winner from 1993, I burned to dig out one of my unfinished short stories for a rewrite.
I had at least six versions of the particular fantasy story already, yet I hadn’t identified the Big Problem. Each version had a beginning, middle, end, and transitions, but something didn’t fit.
With renewed faith that I’d find a solution–I can make this story as good as Elizabeth E. Wein‘s “Fire”!–I started another rewrite. Somewhere in the fourth scene, I finally recognized the Big Problem: I’d convinced myself the hero and main character were the same, and they aren’t.
The story isn’t about the hero, because he doesn’t make plot-driving decisions after the inciting crisis. My goal is for readers to want the hero to achieve his goals–that’s why he’s the hero–but the focus is on another character. It’s this other character’s emotions and actions that result in the hero’s success or failure. It’s this other character who I want the readers to care most about, even as they’re cheering on the hero.
The other character is the main character. He’s an antagonist to the hero, but he’s more interesting. He suffers in more ways than the hero can. He has more power to make decisions and more freedom to act.
After my realization, I started adding scenes to show more of the main character making decisions and taking action.
I feel that I’m on the right path. Thanks go to Wein for creating an inspirational story.
Do you have or know of main characters who aren’t heroes?