Lesson Two from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Do we like your main character yet?

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

I wasn’t going to write about this, but someone told me once they didn’t particularly like Magellan, and I tried to make him a little more endearing right up front. If I had a bad Main Character (MC) intro, and my BP (Beta Partner) did too, then some of you may have done it, also. So, yes, I am going to blog about it, even if it seems like a “Duh” thing to talk about.

On page three, the publisher said that the Main Character is portrayed as spoiled and we’re not led to feel any compassion for him. Now, in the case of the manuscript in question, this was partly done on purpose. We aren’t supposed to completely love this character. It’s part of his growing experience. I understood that once my BP explained it to me after I told her I didn’t particularly like him when I read the first chapter.

Think that over. I UNDERSTOOD THAT ONCE SHE EXPLAINED THAT TO ME.
You are not going to have the chance to “explain” to the agent you are querying, or the publisher you are submitting to, or to your reader… why your main character is the way they are. Even if they are completely despicable, there needs to be something about them that makes you drawn to them to keep them reading on. Either that, or something has to happen in the plot, and QUICK, that grabs their attention and distracts them. (That’s my two-cents… not sure an agent or a publisher would agree on the plot hiding what they would consider character flaws)

So, go back and look at those all-important first few pages, and make sure that your character is lovable to someone other than you.

Not to beat a dead horse (I will be talking about cliches shortly by the way) but GET SOME BETA READERS THAT YOU DON’T KNOW. You might be too close to your story to realize that your MC isn’t likable.

Amendment:  Just read a great blog  from CB Wentworth  about an author thinking up a character and falling in love with him.   I think we all fall in love with our characters in one way or another.  We just need to make sure our readers feel that love, too.  (I’m not saying Noah isn’t likable, by the way!  I’ve never met CB’s work.)

http://cbwentworth.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/one-photograph-changed-everything/

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6 responses to “Lesson Two from the Gold Mine Manuscript Red Line: Do we like your main character yet?

  1. Pingback: Lesson Thirty from a Manuscript Red Line: Finale! Summing it all up | Jennifer M Eaton

  2. I wish I would have found these before I published my last book. I have an Alpha reader (the wife) but always knew she was prejudiced.

  3. Betas are like a lifeline. I didn’t realize I stunk until my first beta read.
    Now I’m only moderately stinky (Well, just those first two stinking pages)

  4. Thanks for the mention. 🙂

    You are absolutely right! Beta readers are such an important part of the process. They need to be trusted individuals and most importantly are able to provide honest feedback. So far, I’ve had five people read my manuscript. They are all different ages and have vastly different personalities. However, the most important trait they all had was that I was afraid to allow them to read my work. One’s an english teacher, another works at a book store and reads A LOT, and then there’s one who is the pickiest reader I’ve ever met. It turns out that fear was a good fear because I learned so much from all of them.

    The good news . . . there hasn’t yet been a reader that doesn’t like Noah. Usually, the first thing I hear is “I just love him.” 🙂

  5. I agree, Kristina. I have two beta readers who tell it like it is but they are gentle in their approach. My novel would be nowhere near where it is if it wasn’t for them. When I’m published, they will have a place of honor upfront and center in my novel. One of my betas I met through Nathan Bransford’s website, the other through Scribophile. Also, becoming a beta reader has an outstanding effect on an author’s own novel, so, the next time you ask someone to read your manuscript, think about doing a beta swap. Your own comments on their stories may help you find the holes in your own.

  6. You are so right. Beta readers are very important. The trick is to find people who will be honest with you and not afraid to hurt your feelings. My first few readers told me the liked what I wrote. Nice, but doesn’t help. Then I spent hours convincing Beta readers to be harsh. That’s when the helpful comments started coming in. I attended Humber School For Writers correspondence course and had Joan Barfoot at my mentor. Best thing I ever did to improve my writing.