Have a coffee with your protagonist.
Photo: For the love of coffee by Ian Shane.
For the reader to care about the protagonist, we need to know her deeply. There must be something she desires or hopes for, but something or someone gets in the way. The focus of her desire must be strong enough to sustain the plot, and ‘real’ enough for the reader to carry on reading to see if the denouement brings her success. Her desire or problem doesn’t have to be revealed in one fell swoop, but there needs to be enough hints about it to draw the reader in.
I like to submerge myself into my protagonist and other characters, so that when I write their dialogue, I use their terminology and react in the way they would. I let the dialogue be written straight from the heart i te first draft, and then I refine it several times during the editing process.
Some characters are verbose and use certain words such as ‘sweetie’ and ‘dear’, which sets them apart from other characters. Some have a clipped many and others display nervous twitches, to help the reader visualise the characters.
One way I find useful to get to know them all, is to daydream over a cup of coffee. With a notepad to hand, I think about the plot line and wonder how t influences the characters. My mind wanders freely, and if I listen carefully, I can hear the characters speaking. The thoughts may not be in sequence, but it doesn’t matter as I save them in my notebook for a future day.
I also like to let them take the lead at times, as that throws up surprising twists and obstacles. I find myself entertained by such acts, which I hope the readers do too.
I like to make my protagonists likeable as that suits the contemporary romance genre. I use snippets from my friends or people I meet, and a tiny part of me can slip in too. However, likeable doesn’t mean that they always do things right – to be believable, things need to go wrong. That’s real life.
Now I’ve written this, I’m going to make a mug of coffee and sit in the garden to ‘chat’ with my protagonist. Currently she is working through her emotions of desire and despair, and I need to listen to how she wishes to proceed.
Happy Word Flow One & All.