Active Protagonists

Still working on revising my WIP novel, scene by scene. In the novel’s scene I just worked on, the main character is sitting at a school assembly. It’s an important assembly which sets up the main point of the story; however, as in most such assemblies, the action of the novel’s scene takes place on stage and adults are doing the most important thing.

Not good. My character is just passively watching.

Activate the Character

Not good at all. My job in revising has been to give him an active part in what’s going on. So, I looked to my character – who is he, what does he do, what are his interests? Ah, he’s a computer guy, putting up webpages, and playing around with web programs. That means Powerpoint or a similar program would be a snap.

What if he’s in charge of the media for the presentation? He would have to sit in a different place and I can play with how to make that a minor obstacle: perhaps, he has to sit with the kindergarten kids on the first row to reach the projector. He’ll also be closer to the stage when a big disaster happens and be more directly involved. That’s a good start.

My protag also needs an active goal for the scene: supporting his step-mother as she presents. When the event falls apart, he’ll blame himself. That’s much better.

Is your character active in every scene? If not, try these:

  • Character traits. Look carefully at your character to find something for him/her to do that is consistent with their interests. There’s probably something around in the setting, the event, the dialogue – somewhere.
  • Setting. Move the character around if necessary, putting him/her in a different place. Draw a map and put an X on the character’s current spot. Point to other places on the map and think about what the character could do if positioned in one of these places.
  • Scene Goal: Put yourself in the character’s POV. What is the character’s goal for the scene? Find something for him/her to care about intensely and work from there to find actions for the character.