Word Wednesday · Writing

Working with your characters: Male Main Characters [3/7]

Hey guys,

Welcome to the third installation of the character building mini-series, today’s focus is on the male main character. Generally main characters are built in a similar manner, however there are elements that are associated with male characters.

One of the biggest clichés for the male main character, is that they are generally written to be extremely good fighters; if not invincible. These men are generally late teens, early twenties (from the books I have read); however they tend to have the skill and experience of those much older.

As majority of the books I have read are young adult, I haven’t read many that follow male protagonists; although some of my favourite series follow men (Harry Potter/ Percy Jackson) these are children (11 to 16/17), however some of the best male protagonists I have read are from the Heroes of Olympus Series. Jason, Leo, and Frank, from the first two instalments; are all unique, funny, each have their own strengths, but most importantly they are all well-rounded and developed characters. They each have their own short comings and fears; they provide excellent role models for how to deal with these without the cliché ‘forget about them and suddenly they wont be there any more’.

As majority of people would agree, this is an epic series and I would highly recommend. Now I just need to finish it!

So, there haven’t been many occasions where I have written from a male point of view; however one of the two projects I intend to work on for this years NaNoWriMo is from a male point of view. So far I have asked myself two key things that have not only bought my character to life, but also helped me identify sub-plots that would help me develop my character by the end of the novel.

The first thing I ask myself is ‘what are they terrible at?’ Yeah, they are really good at some things, but I want to know what they are terrible at because this is one of the key conflict building elements of a character. If they are perfect at everything, then there really wouldn’t be much conflict really would there?

The second thing I ask myself is ‘what do they fear the most?’ Firstly, this works as a great way of deciding the climax of the novel, something many authors struggle with. Working in the protagonist’s greatest fear ensures that there is real conflict at the end of all the build up! Secondly, it makes your character more realistic and rounded; a character that fears nothing has nothing to lose.

I know this instalment is shorter than the previous, however as I have little experience writing male protagonists I didn’t want to write about something and it then be wrong. The two questions above are my go-to questions, not only for male protagonists, but all protagonists.

*Note: Although only male and female protagonists are covered in the series, something I would really love to see more of in literature in general are transgender, gender fluid, or gender neutral protagonists. Even novels where you never know the gender of the protagonist would be a unique and exciting read; especially considering that you can identify with the character whether you are a male or female reader.

Do you have any tips for writing amazing male protagonists?

Helen x


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