Staying Alive

Getting close to your main character has its perils. What do you do, when, like a heartless lover, you’ve finished with them and seal their fate with that final full stop? Is it over between you? Once that closing chapter is written and the story you’ve plotted and perfected is done, what happens to your characters? Now, if you’re savvy, you would have ensured at least one of your characters makes a return in some sort of sequel (surely there is only one sort of sequel?!) – a DI for example. ‘DI YoureNicked returns to pound the stony streets of *choose your location* arresting baddies by the bucketload’ or ‘She started out as just a customer care worker, but now she runs the Company. Read what came next for Brenda O’Flaherty (other protagonists are available) in this sizzling sequel to Customer Care Hotline…’ See what I mean? I wonder if Helen Fielding knew that her creation Bridget Jones would become the sensation it has. I suspect she did. Sensed the Zeitgeist, and all that. Clever Bunny.

So who should be the top four types of characters you would keep alive to keep your readers coming back for more?

Well, number one has to be

  1. Your Main Character – The Winner. ‘Cause everyone loves a winner right? Of course we do. Just so long as they fail loud and long first. Y’know, lose their lover, lose their job, find their lover, regain their job, lose their lover again, struggle with some demons (usually the addictive sort), get passed over for promotion and dumped on from a high height by their nemesis – but hey! they still come out a winner and we love them for it.
  2. The Baddie. Gotta love a baddie. Yin, yang, all that stuff. No good DI YoureNicked turning up for work if there’s no-one to nick because the baddies have just found their consciences and now do voluntary out-reach work. No, you’ve got to have a baddie, whether it’s an all-out Bad Baddie, or a slimey grimey smarm-monster with no social etiquette and a taste for unpleasantness. Dracula for example. Now there’s a character you can get your teeth in to.
  3. The Other Character. You know the one – not entirely sure why it’s there but seems to hold the story together… and that actually doesn’t have to be a human character at all – could be an inanimate object: Lion, Witch…Wardrobe…
  4. The Fourth Dimension (Usually In The Form of a Cat or Dog). Yes yes, yes, I know, dogs and cats are often the main character, the furry protagonist; Bob, for example, surely upstages his ‘owner’ at every and any available moment. Cats are like that. But what I mean by fourth dimension here, is not other-wordly, but the Other Other Character that may only have a minor role in the story but is the hinge on which the whole story hangs. The mysterious shopkeeper in the Mr Benn series for example – we never know anything about him, but without him Mr Benn wouldn’t have had half the fun he did.  And now here, from someone else long ago, is

An old post, but still helpful nonetheless!

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2 thoughts on “Staying Alive

  1. Really enjoying your blog Jacci. Feeling inspired to get writing, now. I’ve bookmarked the post about the characters and their roles (an old one but none-the-less still useful) as I’ve never come across this sort of definition before. Looking forward to seeing you at a writers group meeting again soon!

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