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Beyond my skill level

(Not-so-confidential to this years' Hastings Point Workshoppers...)

I keep getting the critique that my main character, Dru, (in Prince(ss)) is a little bit boring. Funny--but kinda boring anyway.

Here are the notes I wrote up about Dru before I started the book:

Hero) Dru (Drustan). Prince of Serilda. A "coaster." Does well with his tutors to avoid getting into trouble, but kind of boring. Desires to please everyone, to make everyone calm and happy. He wants to appease and gratify the whole world. At every turn, this motive should be doubted. He will go through with this stupid idea of his mother's and lie to her to keep her happy. He must learn that lying to keep people happy is a cheater's way. He doesn't want to be King because being King is a hard job, and he doesn't want to decide the path of the whole kingdom. He will eventually bring about the end of the monarchy and set forth a constitution with an electoral government. It will not be the easy path, however, nor the cheater's way.

Oh, yeah. I meant to do that. Make him boring, I mean.

Now, what I wonder is: how do you make a boring character interesting?

I tried to solve this by making the other characters as interesting as possible, and the situation, dialogue, etc. interesting, fast-paced, well-drawn.

Heroine) Phil (Panphila). Electress. A striver. A girl born without privilege. Desires to go to college, have a successful career, and make up for her mother's death and the awkward place she has in her family and the world. To prove she's worthy of being missed. Marriage to Dru would sideline a lot of this, but there's a mercenary streak in her that sees that as a way to impress her family and bring forth a huge change in the world, by influencing Dru.

(Which I kind of forgot as I wrote. I did the character sketches ages before I got down to the brass tacks. I like how Phil changed in the writing--her motivations are more complex, for starters--though I may reincorporate a little of this as I finish the book and rewrite it.)

Sidekick A) Gro. Caught between two worlds, several times over--from tech world and Serilda, mom and dad, princess and commoner. Wants to find a permanent home, create a permanent family. Not to have to transition between worlds all the time. Make her own way in the world on her own merits, and not be "the girl." She will be the first elected president of Serilda.

Sidekick B) Ches. The stepbrother. Goofball. Underestimated by Dru. Desires to grow up, really, and to be allowed to do his own thing, even if it's to follow Dru around, and be a bit of a nerd-bum.

Sidekick C) Jesper. The bodyguard. Mysterious, but only because of his job. Actually, just looking for a family, like the rest of us.

The critiquers who've seen the book (all or in part) do seem to feel that the rest makes up for the boring main character, but I wonder.

I also sort of wonder: how would you make a boring dude interesting for the purposes of fiction? And I don't mean, "Make him interesting." I mean, take a boring person and actually make it fascinating, to wonder what's going to happen next?

I may very well be writing beyond my skill level, in this.


Jun. 22nd, 2010 04:28 am (UTC)
A character might be boring but if they're not bored, then reading about them in the pursuit of whatever they're interested in can still be engaging.

Cozy mysteries do this a lot -- the protagonist is the most boring, everyday, ordinary person ever, but they're caught up in a dramatic event, and they're passionate about resolving it. Even in real life, someone who seems quite bland can be fascinating if you can get them to talk about what they're most interested in.

IMO, it's more about the motivation than the inherent interest-level of the character.
Jun. 23rd, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
Excellent points...

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