Writing a Story Part 6: Our Main Character Continued

It’s 9:45PM and I’m just now finishing work. I had a break between 5PM and 7PM, where I had a beer some appetizers with coworkers, but it’s still be a long day. I really wanted to skip the blog tonight, and I don’t know that I’m up to doing much writing. Sometimes you take a day to rest. Tonight, however, feels like one of those times where I need to push myself, if only a little bit.

Here is the last thing we came up with for our character:

Our main character will be a cinnamon roll, which is someone that is sweet, optimistic, and tends to put others above themselves. Why did they become a firefighter? Because they wanted to help people without having to carry a gun.

They are healthy, strong enough to carry a person while wearing a bunch of heavy gear, and they’re brave enough to run into a burning building.

How do they feel about fire? We might as well ask the question, since that’s going to be a big part of the story.

Stories are about problems. What kind of problems does this character invite?

So far they seem kind of perfect, don’t they? Perfect people are hard to follow. Superman, when he’s written well, has weaknesses beyond the Kryptonite, such as being overly optimistic or naive. Captain America can similarly be naive, but he also has the complications of being time displaced and out of touch.

Our firefighter is neither Superman nor Captain America, but they are a hero. How do we want to make them more relatable?

Often, it is the character’s flaws that make them the most interesting. In Synthetic Dreams, Dee-ehn is shy and a bit neurotic, while Jayvee is outgoing and non-committal. In Spin City, Arthur Kane is observant and capable of solving complicated puzzles and mysteries, but his longing to go to Earth pushes him to drink too much. In The Repossessed Ghost, Mel is young and a bit of a creep, which sometimes overshadows how he is also genuine and kind.

I think our hero wants to help people, but is not particularly good at interacting with them. Perhaps that’s part of why he does what he does. If he helps enough people, maybe that will make him worthy of being accepted and loved.

I like this person more already.

Let’s pin down a couple of details that I’ve been avoiding. What’s this person’s name? What’s their gender? How old are they? Where do they live, and where are they from?

The character’s gender doesn’t really matter. For now, let’s make her female. I might be tempted to make her trans or gender fluid, but I’m not sure I have the courage for that in this project. I have trans friends that would probably be more than happy to give me insight, and possibly read this to make sure that I’m not doing damage. However, since I’m doing this on the blog, the chances of me inadvertently hurting someone by misrepresenting their real, lived-in experience is non-zero.

I’m not worried about writing women characters, even though I’m not a woman. I think my attitude of, “Just write a character” works for non-white and/or LGTBQ+ people, too, but it’s more complicated. For this public writing project, I’m just going to play it safe.

What’s her name? This doesn’t matter, either, but having a name helps make them seem more real. The first name that comes to mind for our firefighter is Angela. Maybe that’s a bit on the nose, since she’s something of an angelic type. For now, she’s Angela. If you have a suggestion for a different name, let me know in the comments.

When I give her a last name, I’ll start googling a bunch to make sure I don’t pick a name that is already widely out in the world. I don’t think I’m doing that tonight. I’m too tired and too lazy right now.

Being a firefighter, they’re younger than I am. Since she’s also coming into her power as an elementalist, let’s put her in her mid 20s. So, she’s my son’s age. That’s neat.

Where do they live? Where is this story taking place?

I think it needs to be a town and not a city. I think somewhere on the West Coast would be good, since we get a lot of fires here. Let me look at a map.

Maybe Red Bluff, or Redding. Maybe our villain is going along I-5 starting fires.

I think this is where I’m going to stop tonight. It may not seem like we’ve done much, but we have made some significant progress. I’m much more looking forward to writing this character and bringing her to life.

Again, let me know if you have some other ideas for names. In fact, if you give me a list of names, I’ll draw from them while writing this story. I can really get stuck on names while drafting, so having a list to pull from helps significantly.

One thought on “Writing a Story Part 6: Our Main Character Continued

  1. Starting with an apology that I haven’t commented earlier, as I’ve followed along (and even worried about you when the blog went on hiatus there for a few days). Just so you know, I’m reading, I’m here, and I’m really enjoying these posts. They’re a breath of fresh air for me and a mental and emotional release amid all the chaos and superficiality of the day-to-day of our lives.

    And I’m sending support for the rough patch… Going through them never really gets easier, even when you know that they’ll eventually pass. Be kind to yourself. That’s the first thing.

    I love these process posts even more than I’d expected when you first hinted at them coming our way. I’ve enjoyed seeing where our processes diverge as writers and where they converge. And I’m looking forward to seeing where this story goes!

    As far as naming for characters, you’ll laugh, but in addition to ensuring that I don’t have too much sameness in character names (not starting or ending with the same letter or sound, for example), I actually go onto LinkedIn and find names on there to use (never the same full name, of course!). Browsing around and searching, I find people who seem to have similar characteristics as my characters and sort of cherry pick first names and last names that fit.

    An idea, anyway!

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