Thursday, March 24, 2011

Love Your Main Character - Exercise 1

I love Holly Lisle's Forward Motion for Writers website! Holly gives wonderful insight and advice to new writers. I recommend subscribing to her weekly writing tip.  

In one of her weekly e-mails, Holly talks about the main character:

"You chose this character to be in charge of your story, to have the juiciest role, to be the star of the book, because out of all the characters you're writing in that story, THIS character is the most interesting, the most important...and the one in the most trouble."
Holly goes on to say that a lot of writers make the mistake of giving the good lines to villains or minor characters. Holly encourages writers to love their main character and make them #1.

Wow! It hit me. I had made that exact misake! I didn't love my main character, Danya. I thought that she was boring. Uh oh...I'm in trouble.

I decided to stop working on my book until I could fall in love with my main character. Here's the writing exercise I decided to try.

Writing Exercise: Learn more about your main character. Write about his/her childhood memories.  
My response is below.
Danya Larson, memory from 1st grade, age 6 --

Danya stood on a step stool, staring at her mother. Her mother lay there, with perfect make-up and poufy hair. Danya knew that her mother hated her hair like that. She liked it straight, combed back into a ponytail.

Her mama always said, "You look just like me, Danya. See, our hair is exactly that same."

Danya remembered her mother smiling at her through the mirror, their heads together, both with blond hair pulled back into pony tails.

Danya whispered now to her mother, "Mama, you don't like your hair like that."

No response.

"You don't like it like that," she said again, a little louder, her eyes filling tears.

Even louder she said, "Daddy, she doesn't like her hair like that."

Then Danya began screaming, "She hates her hair like that!  Why did they make her hair like that? Why did they..."

Everyone was staring at her, but she didn't notice. She felt her father's arms surround her. She sobbed into his suit jacket. She felt the white carnation crush against her cheek, but she didn't care.

Her father stroked her hair, saying, "Shhhhhh, honey. Shhhhhhhh. It's OK. We'll fix it before the funeral. You're right, she'd hate it. We'll fix it."

He carried Danya to a seat and began to rock her back and forth. He was crying too. She could feel his
tears land on her neck.

People were trying to talk to Daddy.  Why don't they go away? She's ours. Not theirs. I don't want them to be here.

That's all Danya remembered from that time. She didn't even remember the funeral. Her grandmother had commented later that she had acted like a zombie. Her father defended Danya saying, "Margaret, she's numb. She's in shock. We're both in shock. Just leave her alone."


  1. Dawn, you are really creative. Your short short story of Danya really captured me. Keep on writing.


  2. You brought tears to my eyes! Very moving piece.

    I'm also trying to learn more about my main character and it's been fun.

    One teeny correction - in the last paragraph - She farther - should it be further?

  3. Thanks Charlie and Brianna for your kind comments!

    Brianna, Thanks for catching that error. It should have "Her". I fixed it. Please continue to point out mistakes.


I appreciate your comments! I try to respond to each one.