This week, I did something with Salt and Silver that’s a pretty common mistake. If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen the video I posted where I deleted a large chunk of text. I wrote that section of a scene, then realized it would be better told from the perspective of my other main character. So, I rewrote the scene from the other perspective, and deleted the original.
Writing from the wrong perspective for a scene can really hinder the flow, and the story, as a whole, and it’s so easy to do.
So, today, I thought I’d go over why main characters are main characters, and why we show certain things from certain perspectives.
Ever wonder why the main person in a book or movie is always “the one?” Or why everything happens to them? Or why they have so much going on in their life?
It’s on purpose. Believe me.
Why the fuck would we write about the hero’s cousin? Who wants to read a story about someone who heard about this kid who got magical powers? Who would sit for two and a half hours watching a movie about the woman who works with a woman who became a vigilante, even though this other woman never did anything cool or funny or daring?
Because it wouldn’t be interesting.
We write about “the one” because, in their world, they have the most to lose, or face the hardest decisions, or have to sacrifice more. They’re the main character because they’re the main one dealing with the issues of the plot.
Everything happens to them…so we can actually show it to you.
If I write a scene from the perspective of every single character involved in a book, 1) that’s going to be a hell of a lot of work for me, and 2) that’s going to be incredibly convoluted and hard to follow. So…everything has to happen to that character, or, at least, to someone they’re close to, so it still impacts them.
They have a lot going on because…well…they have to have baggage to be realistic. If they have no baggage, if their life is easy and perfect and blissful…that’s hard to relate to.
And unrelatable characters just aren’t as interesting.
Now, if you don’t choose the exact right character to spotlight, that doesn’t mean it’s a complete loss. For instance, I watched a movie called The Silence, recently. It’s on Netflix, one of their originals, I think.
It was good. I enjoyed it. But. They picked the wrong main character.
They weren’t off by much, of course. And, yes, the deaf daughter has her own merits as a character. She’s certainly got some things she deals with (being deaf is a hindrance in our world, and in the apocalypse, as neither world cares much to cater to people).
But the dad is a much more interesting character. He has to make the tough calls. He’s the one to sacrifice, time and time again, getting creative in times of great duress.
The daughter just worries about a guy she likes, and watches the struggles going on around her.
Not quite as interesting.
But I still liked the movie.
So, it’s not necessarily the end of your story if you choose the wrong character to highlight, but it will have an impact.
So, if you’re writing, think about which character has the most at stake. Which character has the most to gain? The most to lose? Who will play the biggest role in overcoming the issues at hand? Who has the most to overcome?
If you’re writing from multiple points of view, and need to decide who to write a specific scene for, which main character will be the most emotional during that scene? Which will be hit the hardest? Who will be the most excited?
Or, depending on what you’re going for, who will be so overwhelmed by emotion that they enter that strange, drifty-numb state where processing anything new becomes too much?
Find the answer to the questions above. That’s your main character.
Sometimes, it turns out to be the villain. Sometimes, it’s a more obvious choice (the chosen one, or some such thing).
And, of course, there are exceptions to the rule, as is the case with anything, especially creative things. Sometimes having one character frame the events that unfold for the true main character is a good way to write. But most of the time, the most interesting character is the best perspective to go with.
Anyway, now that the educational portion of this week’s blog is over, it’s time for a status report. This week, I pulled off 4,649 words for Salt and Silver, not including the deleted portion or the (approximately) 500 words that’s sitting in the notebook in front of me, waiting for me to type it up.
I also just wrote a 1,229 word short story/flash fiction piece. The story was stuck in my head, so I just hammered it out real quick before doing my blog. Lol. I’m still deciding on how to get that out for you all to read.
Posting it in my blog kinda eliminates the possibility of actually publishing it later. Self-publishing something that short without other stories along with it seems silly. I couldn’t get a paperback for it, and I refuse to not have the option of a hard copy.
I may look around for some anthologies that are taking submissions, and see if it fits. Granted, I still have to edit it. But whatever. I can do that later.
For now, I think I’m going to get to work on Salt and Silver. So…
Keep reading. Keep writing.