I have been working on my fifth draft of Quest for Salvation. My biggest task has been to make my main character, Lacey Wentwether, less reactive and more proactive. It’s a task. Admittedly, she’s come a long way from draft number one, in which she had very little personality and was, quite honestly, a damsel in distress. She’s grown a lot. She has more internal motivation, a deeper connection to those around her, and a desire to make things better for her best friend, Tomis.
What has happened between the first draft and the fifth? Well, I have read A LOT about character. I’ve got folders full of bookmarks for the articles and I’ve got stacks of magazine articles. I’ve written three other drafts, each time taking steps to give Lacey more personality, more life. And, most of all, I’ve tried to eliminate the cliches from my novel (not that it has entirely worked, but it is MUCH better than before). Beyond this, Lacey has really stepped up. No, she doesn’t talk to me (the way some writers say their characters talk to them) but I know she can handle the increased pressure. She has to – she’s my protagonist.
There are a few things (other than the reading and redrafting) that have helped me expand Lacey. I wrote a prequel to Quest for Salvation. It’s a short thing, only seven chapters long, called Book of Salvation. It ends right where Quest for Salvation picks up (though the time frame is off – she was much younger in the prequel than she is in QFS) and it showed me how she first came to Ruslaht (the capital of the Empire). I know how she met her mentor and teacher Ellison, and I know how she felt about living with her aunt and uncle. I know how she first met Tomis, and I know how grieved she was to leave Ohmlaur. All of this made her more real to me than she’d ever been before.
Another thing I did was start work on book 2 (working title: Scourge of the Daiyen). This way, I saw how the events of QFS led to the future events (not to mention it helped with refining quite a few of the minor characters in book 1). I wrote about the aftermath of everything that had happened and saw how it put a strain on Lacey’s relationships with the others.*
The third thing I did was write the very end of Lacey’s story. I know exactly what it is all progressing towards, and I know how she has to get there now. Which means I know what traits must at least be hinted at that will get her there.
And so, all of this helps in making her the best protagonist she can be. It’s an exciting journey from damsel in distress to idealistic mapmaker. I hope you have as much fun honing your characters as I do mine!
Take care, fellow travelers.
*I’m being intentionally vague because I hate spoilers, and I know you probably do to.
- Chapter One Excerpt (emilyramos.wordpress.com)
- On Writing Women (secondstaronther.wordpress.com)
- making characters in your novel ‘real’ (cuppatae.wordpress.com)
- Stop Making Your Characters So Perfect – no one is that nice… (elysesalpeter.wordpress.com)