I’ve been working on the outline for my new WIP over the past week and pondering which character should take the lead. I had one particular character who I wanted to be the MC, but there were two other contenders who were speaking loudly. These other two each had a compelling conflict, but I couldn’t find a way for either of them to believably come through as the hero.
Finding the right main character has sometimes been a challenge for me when starting a new novel. In my first MG fantasy, I started with a twelve-year-old boy protagonist, but before I had written three chapters, I knew the real MC was the twelve-year-old girl he was spying on. That was a pretty lucky discovery only six thousand words into the story.
In my current manuscript, the one which is out with first readers now, my first draft was in the POV of the protagonist’s sister. (I thought he was the antagonist at the time.) The story didn’t work, because it was his problem, not hers. Her voice was really strong, though, so I decided to alternate chapters, his view/her view. I wrote the entire novel, fifty-five thousand words this way. Still didn’t work. For the next draft, I had to get drastic. I eliminated the sister character from the entire story. Wiped her out. All her great dialogue, all her schemes. Oh, that sweet scene by the river!
But finally, my real protagonist had room to run, and he took off. I don’t regret the time it took me to get there, at least not anymore, though I admit to being in a really foul mood for a couple of weeks until I figured out my new outline with my new MC. I love the way my story has turned out. Nevertheless, I’d like to skip that quagmire this time around.
Saturday morning I reviewed my three choices for MC, and kept coming back to my original character. Finally, I realized I had been imposing too old of a voice on him, so I put him in a situation that would have been beyond his experience, and instead of the stuffy self-confidence he had been so annoyingly displaying all week, he was scared and unsure what to do. This was encouraging, so I did it again, and again. Now he’s trying desperately to keep up, making decisions by the seat of his pants and everything’s going wrong.
The two impostors who had been vying for MC are now lying doggo. I still have a way to go before the rough draft of the outline is finished, but now that I’ve found my true MC, I can get on with the rest of the plot.