Monday, November 1, 2010

Shake it up Baby!

Big welcome to those of you who've wandered in recently. Also thanks to those who congratulated me on my blogversary. I just realised that I haven't said thank you. *insert shame here*

About a year ago I picked my first book by a certain author. Being in Japan, I end up reading what I can get my hands on just as much as I read stuff I'd pick out on purpose. And yes, I know there's Amazon and Book Depository. That does nothing to curb my addiction to buying physical books everytime I pass a bookstore.

So anyways, I read this book. And was surprised to find I liked it since it's not YA, and I'm a YA-aholic. So I bought a few other books by this author. And I read 2 more before it hit me. All the MC's (main characters) are the same person! They all have the same gender and religion- neither of which I mind that much. But they are also all the same physically, have the same views on pretty much everything, the same hobbies, the same type of profession, etc and so forth.

And maybe that's fine for some people. But it's not fine for me. So much so, that I haven't touched the other 2 books I have by said author.

It's possible that you're looking for a specific niche, and you want all your MC's to be the same person. On the off chance that you'd like to shake it up a little, here are some ways to avoid the cookie cutter.


Back in my university days, I was the Student Guild representative for my faculty. The biggest issue I had to deal with was a catch 22 in the Education department. Students would be graduating with a degree in education, but without a specialisation in a subject. So while they knew all these theories, there was nothing they could actually teach.

This is the problem in sequestering yourself in front the computer.

So get out there and do something. Join a cooking class, learn to ski, eat dinner at the new Italian place in town. Your characters (agents, editors, publishers, readers) will thank you for it.


Every time you come across something that makes you go, "Whoa! What?" think about inserting it in your novel. Your sister's new boyfriend is an endocrinologist? Great job for a character! The Kiddie Quilting Circle is having an exhibition? That would be a random obscure hobby for a teen! Your co-worker is the President's/Queen's/Prime Minister's 14th cousin twice removed? Aw yeah, now we're talking.


There are lots of things that aren't your radar. They just aren't your thing. But that doesn't mean your characters have to suffer from it. For example, I pretty much never wear make-up, and that's a part of most women's daily ritual. It's such a non-issue for me, that I don't think I've ever mentioned makeup in a book. And I'm on my 4th WIP!

How can you solve this? First make a list of things you never do, have never done, would never do, places you would never go, people you'd never want to meet... Pretty much [anything] you'd never [anything]. Then consider giving some of those to a character.

I think this should help with keeping your characters distinct. What about you? Do you like your characters to be similar? If not, how do you make sure they aren't?

It's Monday, that's what's on my mind.


Marsha Sigman said...

I have to make myself change things about my mc's because I am afraid they are too similar. They have superficial differences but I don't think that's enough. So, yeah I go with the opposite

Natalie Aguirre said...

Yeah, that's a problem in writing. Even with characters in a story. Your suggestions are good. Or maybe watch some teen TV sit coms and see how kids really are different.

Clarissa Draper said...

Those are some great suggestions. I love the make a list of things you would never do. Wonderful!