As Kaye and I sat and chatted the other day instead of writing a well-informed and researched post, we discussed our currents WIPs. (Shocking, I know—talking about something productive!)
I referred to my main character as my heroine, then stopped myself, saying I hate that word, I always feel like I am saying heroin, and my main character is not a drug. We went on to list all of the other words we must in the place of heroine (protagonist, MC, Queen of my novel). But as I stayed up all night unable to sleep, my mind wandered back to that conversation, and I realized that a great main character is, in a way, like a drug.
Now, I in no way mean to trivialize drug addiction, but think about it. If a book has a great MC, you are drawn into the story to the point that you can tune out the world. A great character can make or break a book. I tend to become so invested in a great character I tune out the world around me. I lose track of time, of my surroundings. I have been in a doctor’s office and missed my name being called multiple times because I was so engrossed in a book. I have had my husband try to have entire conversations with me and not processed a thing because my mind wasn’t there. (He has learned to recognize these times, and knows that, although I am talking, I have no idea what I am saying, and won’t remember a word later.)
A book will not suck someone in to that extent, however, without a great MC. We like to be invested in the characters in the books we read. If we aren’t, we won’t relate to the story line. It doesn’t matter if the MC is an alien zombie with purple skin and blue hair (now you see why I don’t write paranormal or sci-fi). If there isn’t something we, as readers, can relate to, we likely won’t be as invested in the story.
Here’s an example. I recently read a series by one of my favorite authors, a heroine in her own right. I love reading romance series because you get to see the original characters and relationships develop much further than you typically do in a romance. In this particular series, there were four books, with each one having a different MC. The first book was amazing—loved the MC. The second two were great, too. Loved the characters, as well as seeing their interaction with the first. The last book was boring. There was no conflict, the MC was flat. (To be honest, I thought the character had the most potential, too.) Still, I read it. Why? For those brief glimpses of the characters from the previous books. I couldn’t get enough. And it was worth it.
In other words, character development is key. As writers, we need to strive to make characters that are almost addicting, almost drug-like. So while I am still not a huge fan of the term heroine, I realize that it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if someone told me one of my characters was drug-like. A great book should be addicting, and there are very few great novels without great MCs.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you make your characters addicting? Do you agree that a great MC is key to a great book, or have you loved a book where you hated the MC? I am always looking for more to read. Do you have any suggestions for books with amazing MCs?