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I'm writing a space opera series about a princess who embarks on a tour of the solar systems... until it goes haywire! She's stranded in another galaxy after being ripped from hyperspace. Through her journey, she discovers a plot to destroy the peaceful Cassileo Federation her people worked hard to create. She must find a way to return home before it’s too late.

It's told from the main character's first-person perspective, and I feel like her character is a bit... stagnant. I thought of making her a little uptight and snooty and changing as the story goes on, but I fear that's too cliché.

Any advice? Your help is much appreciated!
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
It's hard to know where to go with that. The main character is the heart of the story. You have to feel her, to write her. You might try to forget about thinking too much and just writing. Take any scene that you think may be in the story and just start having her interact. Perhaps somewhere in your mind is an alter ego that may surface. Try writing the same scene a number of times and try out a few different personalities, and then just go with what gets you excited about writing her. Trust your intuition.
 
I don't think moving from uptight and snobbish to more relaxed and humble is too cliche -- sure, it's been done, but so have most basic arcs. Her uniqueness as a character will come out in how the basic arc unfolds.

But there are other basic arcs, if you feel your initial idea isn't gelling. She could go from naive and reckless to more wise and discerning. She could start timid and shy but be forced by story events to become brave. She could start more cold and closed-off, and become open and friendly as she learns to trust the people she meets on the way. You could ask, what is her core motivation? What does she want? Or you could ask, how does she respond to the story events; how do they change her? Does her core motivation change? She could start wanting one thing, then realize there's something else that's more important. Maybe she starts out a little resentful of her home and family -- she wants to get out of there and have some fun. But then having her home threatened could make her value it more.

Just throwing out a bunch of different thoughts to get ideas rolling.

And I have to disagree with Taylor -- the main character is not necessarily the heart of the story. A main character is important, but depending on the type of story, it's not always the most important. Some stories focus on the setting. Some are centered on plot and action. Some, mood, feeling; some, the mythic quality, or the theme. Many stories are primarily character-driven, but it's not the only way to write a story.
 

K.S. Crooks

Senior Member
If you don't like the character being uptight an snooty, how about arrogant and in-control. When she is sent to the other galaxy this brings her down a few pegs. She can then learn from her new situation and regain her control, but with more wisdom and respect for others.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
I don't think moving from uptight and snobbish to more relaxed and humble is too cliche -- sure, it's been done, but so have most basic arcs. Her uniqueness as a character will come out in how the basic arc unfolds.

But there are other basic arcs, if you feel your initial idea isn't gelling. She could go from naive and reckless to more wise and discerning. She could start timid and shy but be forced by story events to become brave. She could start more cold and closed-off, and become open and friendly as she learns to trust the people she meets on the way. You could ask, what is her core motivation? What does she want? Or you could ask, how does she respond to the story events; how do they change her? Does her core motivation change? She could start wanting one thing, then realize there's something else that's more important. Maybe she starts out a little resentful of her home and family -- she wants to get out of there and have some fun. But then having her home threatened could make her value it more.

Just throwing out a bunch of different thoughts to get ideas rolling.

And I have to disagree with Taylor -- the main character is not necessarily the heart of the story. A main character is important, but depending on the type of story, it's not always the most important. Some stories focus on the setting. Some are centered on plot and action. Some, mood, feeling; some, the mythic quality, or the theme. Many stories are primarily character-driven, but it's not the only way to write a story.
So well said. You have changed my position!

When I think of one of my favourite authors for example, James Michener, I would not say his characters are the heart of the story. They are more the vehicles to tell the story.

I like the various options you provided. But mostly I relate to your advice about how she responds to the story events. What does the character need to do in order to tell the story, and does that seem realistic? And moving from snobbish to humble is a common theme that many relate to.

My new advice to the OP after this great post is to think about your underlying theme, and what the moral to the story is. That may shape your MC. And likely you are already on the right track. It's how you tell the story that will make a common well-liked character arc new.
 

Crooked Bird

Senior Member
What does she want?

Hey, you stole what I was going to say!

But seriously, knowing what your character wants is absolutely paramount. She's a princess and has everything? Sure, but does she? Does she want someone's respect or someone's attention, that she doesn't have? Is she more of an active government figure, or a figurehead? If A, she may want to do something she's sure history will judge her favorably for, or she may wish there were space to make personal choices her role doesn't allow for... if B, she may wish for more meaning to her life, or she may want to be known for who she is instead of her role as princess. There are dozens of things she could want.

I mean, more could be said, there are lots of other facets of building a character, but you said stagnant, and to me that says a character who doesn't want anything fiercely enough to drive her personal story (even before the "real" story begins... she needs to be driving pages 1 and 2 by being someone who wants something so bad we really hope she'll get it. That'll make her not stagnant.)
 
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Thank you all so much for your great advice! I appreciate it. I'm going to try and experiment with a few different personalities to see what happens.
 
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MooreMom523

Senior Member
If you don't like the character being uptight an snooty, how about arrogant and in-control. When she is sent to the other galaxy this brings her down a few pegs. She can then learn from her new situation and regain her control, but with more wisdom and respect for others.
This was my line of thought as well. I enjoy seeing an uptight character who thinks they know everything and feels like they have a true handle on their world be turned upside down and inside out.
 

Turnbull

Senior Member
I like seeing an uptight character being allowed to life his life happily because the people around him aren't horribly judgemental busybodies who take joy in disturbing other people's equilibrium.
 
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