My Main Character is Flat and Dead

I’m writing a friggin’ horror story, but before the first dead body, there’s already a casualty: my main character. Sometimes, I pants it out when I write a story because Oh, don’t we all love the idea of a muse that inspires us to write? But the painful truth is, I only got till Chapter 9 before a large black hole filled the pitiful space where my mind should’ve been.

I needed something – maybe not a strict outline of all the chapters – but some semblance of order. Something I can follow and say, “I’m making progress.”

So today, I went back to my chapters and made a list of my characters in Evernote. I did this before for other story drafts. Why didn’t I do it for this specific novel? I’ve no idea. Hubris, probably. Misguided enthusiasm, most likely.

It was November and I felt the need to immerse myself in the Halloween spirit, but when that spirit faded away like the Ghost of Christmas Past, I found myself floundering. What’s next?

In hindsight, I should’ve done something more for my main character – added or changed something to make him different. He didn’t have to have one eye or a third eye, in fact. He just needed to be something alive – more than a name, more than a plot device to be used to present a horror adventure story in a creepy house.

So what to do?

  1. Revisit and re-read articles from Fiction University about characters.
  2. Flesh out the other characters. Specific traits? Habits? Paint them for the reader’s imagination.
  3. What makes my main character worthy to be the main character? In short, why him? Why not the better, cooler, more proactive character? Why should readers care what happens to him? WHY????
  4. What’s his personality? What makes him afraid? How will the situation bring out his courage, his heroism, his main-character-ness?
  5. Give him a background story EVEN IF I will not write his background story in the novel.
  6. KNOW my main character inside out.
  7. Torture him.

All right, time to start dissecting.

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