6 Characters Your Protagonist Needs to Have Around

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Your protagonist may be the star of the show, but they can’t do everything alone. Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an entire cast of characters to help your hero along on their journey.

6 Characters Your Protagonist Needs to Have Around

Do you think Harry Potter could’ve accomplished all that he did if it were just him on his own out there against Voldemort? Of course not. He had friends who stuck by him, teachers who came and went, and a whole assortment of villains that drove the plot forward. Your main character needs those people, too.

6 Types of Supporting Characters

Let's take a look at the people who surrounded Harry and the roles they played in his life. Which of these character types appear in your story?

1. Mentor

This would be the Dumbledore of the story. Usually an elder, but not necessarily, they’re the one who always has some sort of nugget of wisdom right when the protagonist needs it. They teach and steer the main character away from stupid decisions (though they may not always succeed at that).

If your hero ran off without anyone to guide them, they’d probably end up in heaps of trouble.

2. Confidant

Being the hero of a story puts a lot of pressure on a person. They can’t handle all of these secrets and worries alone! Whenever they need some advice or a listening ear, this is the person they go to.

This could be a friend, relative, teacher, anyone willing to offer help and encouragement. Sirius Black could be a good example of this.

3. Antagonist

Whether it’s your typical “big bad,” a school bully, or that cashier at the grocery store who gives the protagonist dirty looks, this is the character who offers up some conflict. It’s someone they can butt heads with, rant about to the confidant, maybe use a picture of their face as a dartboard.

This character doesn’t even have to be evil. As long as they and the main character are far from bosom buddies, you’re in the clear. Think of them as Snape.

4. Parental Figure

As a lot of heroes (such as Harry) are tragically orphans, the parental figure doesn’t have to be a mom or dad. They don’t even have to be related by blood. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were some of the best versions of parents Harry could’ve asked for.

This is the person who never forgets a birthday, makes a pot of the best chicken noodle soup when your protagonist has the flu, and hugs them goodnight.

5. Sidekick/Partner-in-Crime

Is your protagonist planning to break into a high-security building in the dead of night in order to get those top-secret blueprints for the villain’s underground lair? This character doesn’t even need to be asked to come along; they’ll be there dressed in dark clothing and with a Plan B, C, and Q in mind.

As sidekicks have to be tight with the hero, they generally end up being the best friends, too. Ron and Hermione were Harry’s partners-in-crime, without a doubt.

6. Comic Relief

Every story gets a little—or a lot—dark sometimes. But if the reader got stuck under that gloomy storm cloud for the entire ride, chances are they’d get tired of it.

That’s the cue for this character to pop in and crack a joke or two, cheering up both the reader and your protagonist. Fred and George were definitely the comic relief of the series.

Get Creative

Of course there are many more types of characters your protagonist in particular might need around. For example, if you’re writing a romance, they’d need a love interest, and maybe even a “wrong love.” It’s up to you ultimately to decide which of these they need, when, and where.

If you wanted, you could combine certain characters to make someone brand new and unique. What would a parental figure who’s also a partner-in-crime look like? How about an antagonist/comic relief?

The choice, and the story, is yours. Just don’t leave your protagonist stranded, all right?

What characters help your protagonist? Did I leave any out of this list? Let me know in the comments!

PRACTICE

Write a scene where your protagonist is in a situation that requires them to get help in some way from one of the characters listed above. Write for fifteen minutes, then post the results in the comments. Don’t forget to give your fellow writers a little love, too. Have fun!

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The Magic Violinist is a young author who writes mostly fantasy stories. She loves to play with her dog and spend time with her family. Oh, and she's homeschooled. You can visit her blog at themagicviolinist.blogspot.com. You can also follow The Magic Violinist on Twitter (@Magic_Violinist).

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55 Comments

  1. Jean Blanchard

    I wasn’t allowed out that evening. But James was allowed inside the back gate to give me an invitation to his birthday party. We sat on the back step and talked about boys’ things. And I told him my secret. His eyes widened as he listened and I said I didn’t know what to do. James knew about grown up things he said. He said my dad might have ‘a bit on the side’ and ‘got a bun in the oven’. I didn’t know what he was talking about. The he started talking about two dogs we saw in the park and I couldn’t see what that had to do with anything.

    ‘Home James. Now.’ my mother shouted. ‘You get in here, Timothy. Now.’

    She’d been listening in the kitchen. She grabbed me and made me tell her what I saw in the park. She questioned me for details. She screamed at me saying I was a liar. Her monster face shouting in mine. A dirty filthy liar. I could smell the tea on her breath and the stew she keeps in her armpits. She threw me up the stairs. To get to bed. To stay out of her way. I did get a bit bruised but I didn’t cry.

    So I lay on my bed and rehearsed everything I hated about the bedroom. How much I liked James and how Nanna was right about my mum. I just couldn’t bring myself to admit how much I hated my mum. It was a wicked thing to say and ‘even God wouldn’t forgive me.’ she, my mum, would say. So I lay in the dark. I couldn’t sleep. Would the Nazis kill me? I did wonder.

    I heard the latch on the front gate make a clack and knew dad was home.

    Reply
    • Stella

      Interesting piece! I like how the narrator’s secret is gradually revealed, as are the other characters’ reactions to it. Though I’m not totally sure I understood correctly. Is the narrator gay?

      Reply
  2. rosie

    This is a great article, because I think a story is only as strong as its characters. I think the best story has diversity in its characters, much like you’ve said here. Without variety (the mentors, the comic relief and the terribly evil) stories wouldn’t be as well-rounded and satisfying.

    Reply
    • Ariel Benjamin

      Yes, Rosie, I completely agree! The best storytelling influences I’ve ever harbored a (maybe slightly unhealthy) obsession for had characters who lived on when the story was done. Characters who could easily be placed in other situations and still tell a dynamic story. Humans relate to people (or, beings, in some cases). I’ve always thought characters were the best selling point of a book. Weak characters make the rest a drudgery to read. And diversity as well: it’s those surprising twists and turns in character that make them more delightful and more meaningful.

      Reply
  3. Jean Blanchard

    This is very true, Rosie. And, yes, this a very helpful article. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Will King

    Just a couple quick thoughts about the suggested hybrid characters mentioned in the post.

    What would a parental figure/partner-in-crime look like? One possibility could be Patrick Gates, father to Benjamin Gates, in the National Treasure films.

    What would an antagonist/comic relief look like? One possibility might be Vector, the arch criminal in the original Despicable Me film.

    Reply
    • Bruce Carroll

      For antagonist/comic relief, I thought of the two bandits in “Home Alone.”

      Reply
  5. RevDr. Robert Foster, AbC, EfG

    Here goes nothing:
    ______________________________________________________________

    Lavitz swaggered over to the stunned Adora. “Miss me, Your Highness?”

    She took in the ragged, patchwork armor, the gore covered beard with the scar running through it, and knew her husband was still in disguise. “You’re late, Sir Lavitz.”

    “I am not. I arrived precisely when I meant to.”

    “You promised me reinforcements nearly a year ago.”

    He waved his hand at the bare chested warriors battling the demons. “What do you call these?”

    She put her hands on her hips. “Late. As I said.”

    “They cannot be late, as I never said when they’d be delivered.”

    Adora growled at him. “You’re impossible.”

    “And precise.” He winked pertly at her.

    She snorted and turned away, but not before he caught the smile she tried to hide. “What am I ever going to do with you, Sir Lavitz?”

    “Well, after this battle, maybe you could fill me in on this creature called a DarkWalker.”
    The way her shoulders stiffened told him he’d come to the right person for this information.

    “Maybe.”

    His placed his hand on her shoulder. “Please, Your Highness. It is important to me.”

    She touched his hand and then walked off. “I know.” She whispered the words.

    He caught them anyway. He directed his attention back to the Prince. “Well, Sire, ready to go back to slaughtering demons?” He grinned. “Turnabout is — ”

    “Fair play,” Amando finished and grinned.

    “Indeed.”

    Reply
    • Ariel Benjamin

      These are fun characters! You squeezed in a wide range of emotions in a short amount of time. That’s great work. Side note, have you ever watched the movie Mordecai? Maybe it’s not the best of movies out there, but the relationship between husband and wife there is interesting. Your writing here reminded me of them. Suggestions? Some of your actions were hard to imagine, like growling and snorting. It helps me to act out what my characters are doing sometimes, to get a better sense of how to describe the action. Would I “snort” so soon immediately after a “growl?” I might sound a bit like a farm 🙂

      Reply
      • RevDr. Robert Foster, AbC, EfG

        Thank you. I’m glad you liked it. I have not seen Mordecai, nor have I even heard of it. I’ll check it out. I’ll also change up Adora’s reactions. Thanks for the tips. 🙂

        Reply
    • Rodgin K

      I couldn’t agree more about the enjoyable banter between two people who love each other. I certainly would like to read more. Of course, I’m a sucker for almost anything with battle.

      I’m assuming Prince Amando is the Protagonist and The Queen and Sir Lavitz are the comic relief? Always so fun to write the comic relief.

      It is very well done, though I would have to agree with Ariel on the snort/growl issue. I understand what the action should look like (at least I think I do) but it does look odd now that it is pointed out. A very minor nitpick in a good piece of action though.

      Reply
      • RevDr. Robert Foster, AbC, EfG

        I’m glad you liked it.

        Amando is actually a side character. As is the Queen. Sir lavitz is the main character. Of the series. This is actually from Book II.

        Reply
  6. James Wright

    I have another good example of partners in crime. Detective Rizoli and Dr. Isles from the novel series of the same name. Rizoli and Isles. They just compliment each others professionalism Rizoli the cop and Isles the medical examiner.
    Loved the article.

    Reply
  7. Ozichi Alimole

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for sharing your expertise on this subject. A quick question: is it possible to have a plot structure in which the ‘protagonist’ is the bad guy? I’ve made the first draft of a short story but the protagonist is the villain. Do you think this is logical?

    Ozichi

    Reply
    • Rodgin K

      I am particularly interested in this question as well as I’m in a similar situation.

      My two cents is that yes, you can have villains story. There are always two sides to every coin and while the story would be as incomplete as a heros story, it doesn’t make it illogical.

      A story told well is a story worth telling.

      Reply
      • Ozichi Alimole

        Hi,
        I agree with you we can have a ‘villain’ story as well as ‘hero’ story. It all depends on the p primary purpose and potential audience. What’s your thought on writing outline especially in regard to the short story genre? I get the impression that outlining affects creativity negatively.

        Reply
        • Rodgin K

          Purpose is the key, I suppose. I find myself most interested in purpose when blocking out a story.

          I find that outlining is the frame in which I build the rest of my story. While it can limit your creativity, if you don’t give yourself a parameter to work inside of you can easily lose your purpose in the creativity.

          Now, I have never really tackled the short story genre before and even in that, I’m doing mostly exercises and flying by the seat of my pants. However, without doing it officially and writing it down in an “outline” I still build an idea and a structure in my mind ahead of writing, which would be the same thing.

          To sum up (SKIP TO HERE FOR THE SHORT ANSWER) conscientiously outlining is more important if you’re prone to wander and lose the point of the tale you wanted to tell. In my villain story, I actually have the four main points written. I now have an entire world to build around it, but that is most definitely not a short story.

          Reply
    • themagicviolinist

      Hi, thanks for commenting! I agree with Rodgin, you can absolutely write a story from the villain’s point of view. Have you ever seen the movie “Megamind?” It was wonderfully done. My advice to you would be to make sure that no matter how nasty your villain is (and it’s possible to have varying degrees of evilness), make sure they still have some redeeming quality to them. Maybe no matter how twisted their logic is, they’re under the impression they’re doing it for love. Maybe they don’t even realize they’re the villain. There are so many options when it comes to tackling a story with a tricky protagonist such as that one, but if it’s done right, readers will love it. Good luck!

      Reply
  8. Malik WIlliams

    I was about to give up, as the monster was way too powerful, they was no way I could’ve beaten it. But then, a voice chimed in saying, “I believe in you. You can do this, don’t give up hope right now.” I stabbed the ground with my sword to give myself some leverage as i was getting up, I then pulled the sword from the ground and got into a fighting stance. I could see a light silhouette of my father standing to my left, I could see his mouth moving & saying, “Just repeat after me…” The monster lunged at me like how a predator would do to it’s prey. I saw my father slashing the air, in which I did the same. I manged to cut the monster’s torso, due to that, the monster stepped back a few inches away as it clenched it’s chest. Not wanting to give up on the fresh food that I was, it tried to lunge at me again, I dodged the lunge and made a quick precision towards it’s head.

    The dead carcass of the decapitated monster laid on the ground, one of my teammates ran up to me after the incident and said, “I would’ve came up here in time just to help you, but I needed to help out my sister.” I questioned, “What happened with your sister?” “It’s nothing now, we had to fight a huge bear…” I questioned again, “So is she alright?” “Well, besides a couple of scrapes and bruises, she’ll be fine.” I saw his sister walking up to where we were, I quickly walked to her and asked, “Are you fine?” she replied with a dismissive wave towards the air and her smiling, “Yeah, I’m fine.” her brother looked at the both of us suspiciously before saying, “Oh yeah, I was fine too. If you were going to ask me that….” I faced the both of them and pulled out the map for the northern region, “So, there is a town nearby. We could use the town’s stores to restock on any items that we used and rest for tonight.” I put the map back in my pocket and we marched on.

    Reply
    • Stella

      Hi Malik, thanks for posting your practice! I would’ve liked more details on the monster the protagonist is fighting, and more hints on the dynamics between the characters. Like I couldn’t tell if the sister is dismissive or open towards the protagonist.

      Reply
      • Malik WIlliams

        Thanks for your constructive criticism, the monster was just a rare breed of a common beast that was stronger and bigger than the common breed of that monster. It is primarily located in the plains of the fictional continent of the northern region. it wasn’t meant to be a big, scary monster like those dragons you would hear as a child. it is probably about…6 feet 10 inches compared to the common breed which is about half that size. And the characters that tagged along with the main character are supposed to be open towards the main character, the brother was a sidekick to the main character. whilst the sister was supposed to be the confidant.

        My head was going a million miles a second when I was writing that, so sorry about the confusion in my writing, I’m usually not like that.

        Reply
        • Stella

          No worries! That’s what we’re all here for, to practice. I don’t edit my writing before I post here either so I usually cringe at what I publish. But hey, makes it easier to see when we improve with time too.

          Reply
  9. Rodgin K

    So, an excellent breakdown of character Archetypes in relationship to the Protagonist.

    A brief explanation on the practice piece, because I feel it is deserved. The 15 minutes of writing on this ended up being in the middle of the short story, and it does not show the characters well at all. Mora (the protagonist) has recently been orphaned and in a desperate bid to return home has stolen a purse. She was found by her Uncle while on the run from the constable of a human town. Her Uncle should/will be filling the parent figure and the mentor roll, while Mr. Avery the policeman was supposed to be something of comic relief. Like I said, this is a bad excerpt to see the characters well, but rules are rules.
    _______________
    “Ah, I should have expected as much,” Runbar said with a sad distant smile. “I’m not what they would call a respectable dwarf, you see. Though I didn’t realize I had been written out of the pages of history so soon.”

    “Whatever do you mean,’ Mora asked, thoroughly confused. “Are you a criminal?”

    “No, Mora,” Runbar said, “I just see the world differently. The very fact I am choosing to live among humans is an issue for them.”

    “It is a little strange,” Mora said, quickly putting her hand over her mouth when she realised how rude she had sounded.

    “It is,” Runbar agreed, offering her a comforting wink. “But we can discuss that more later. Here we are at the stationhouse.”

    Mora felt the lump in her throat swell as they walked up the two aged stone steps and push open the door into the constabulary. A bell hung in the door gave a hollow ring which made her jump. She gripped her Uncle’s hand tightly, hoping he wasn’t about to leave her here. The highly polished wood floor was newer than the steps, and well kept, but there were still bits of litter and trash from the day’s work that had found their way into the corners. A man in the same long sleeved, brightly buttoned coat sat behind a desk, though his helmet was nowhere to be seen. He looked up when the bell rang and his face split into a wide grin.

    “HAPPY!” the officer said, rising to meet them. “My wife is still absolutely thrilled with that patch you made to her boiling pot. I’ve been meaning to stop by and drop off a meal as a bit of thanks.”

    “No thanks is needed Mr. Avery,” Runbar said with a smile and a nod. “You’ve already paid with your hard earned money. I am actually here to see the Captain.”

    “I’ll make sure he’s free,” Officer Avery said quickly, shifting directions faster than Mora had thought possible for one of his height. “Can I tell him what about?”

    “A cutpurse,” Runbar said, making Avery visibly flinch. The officer stopped in his tracks and turned around.

    “You were the victim of a cutpurse,” the officer said with genuine concern. “That’s not right at all! What happened?”

    “I’d rather explain it to the Captain, if it is all the same to you,” Runbar said, his normal smile fading to a more serious look.

    “Of course, of course,” Avery said, darting back through a door to talk to the Captain.

    Reply
    • Zerelda

      I really like the description of the constabulary. I get a very clear picture of what it looks like. This is a story I’d like to read. 🙂 This excerpt works fine without prior explanation, though in the context of….character stuff, it does help me see the roles of each character.

      Reply
      • Rodgin K

        Thank you. So nice to hear something back.

        As far as the rest of it, we’ll see when I finish it.

        Reply
  10. Sondra

    This is a great article to read. Especially since I’m new to writing and am open to all information available to improve my work.
    Thanks a lot.

    Reply
  11. LaCresha Lawson

    Okay, time to be our “Creative Selves.” I’m ready……I think.

    Reply
  12. Member of the Tribe

    Nice article. Here’s my attempt
    ______________________________________________________________

    “Alright everyone, step over here into the middle of the lobby and no one will get hurt,” Kings tried to scream to every employee in the room. Attempting to rob the bank were you formally worked makes disguising your voice a priority. Unfortunately, this tended to cause Kings to cough when he tried to lift his artificially raspy voice above a whisper. Anna quickly approached each employee and took their cellphone into her black bag. She followed the plan to perfection.

    “Thank you. Just have a seat right over there. We really appreciate it,” she mentioned to each teller that she approached.

    “Littlefoot, what are you doing?” Kings wheezed, annoyed at her over the top kindness in such a tense situation.

    “Sorry. So sorry,” she replied. “Nobody better give us any shit. You hear me?” she yelled while waving her high quality replica pistol at everyone. The oldest teller, Sydney, screamed at the top of her lungs in terror.

    “Relax, Littlefoot. Jesus”

    “I don’t get it, what do you want me to do?”

    “Just watch everyone, OK?”

    “OK. Whatever, just put the code in the thingy so we can go”

    Kings glared at her while he skipped over to his old desk. He pretended to search aimlessly for his old security code for the vault before retrieving them from the bottom drawer. He walked over to another banker’s desk and repeated the dance. Kings was sure this would keep people from thinking it might be him knowing exactly where to get what he needed. In his rush to pretend to ransack another desk, his heart dropped when he mistakenly tripped the panic alarm located underneath a cabinet drawer. His former boss’ desk was configured differently than his and that little twist reared its ugly head.

    “Anna, we gotta go,” he ran back to the lobby screaming. At this point his panic kept him from remembering to mask his voice.

    His eyes met the steely stare of his former manager, Jean, standing behind his whimpering partner in crime. Jean’s hand shook as the gun he took from Anna was pointed at Kings. “It’s over man. Just put your gun down”

    Reply
    • Bruce Carroll

      Nice! I love the character Kings.

      Reply
      • Member of the Tribe

        Thank you, I really appreciate that

        Reply
    • Zerelda

      I’m sorry to be so imprecise, but this is awesome!

      For a second I thought they were Canadian.

      Reply
      • Member of the Tribe

        Thank you so much. Precise or not, it’s nice to hear you liked it so much. What made you think they were Canadian?

        Reply
        • Zerelda

          Anna’s over the top kindness. 🙂

          Reply
    • Stella

      Well done! I like how you added several little twists so this isn’t a typical bank robbery scene. Kings needing to disguise his voice because he used to work there, Anna going from too-nice to too-nasty, Kings accidentally tripping the alarm.

      Reply
  13. Stella

    ‘Please, I need a reference. Otherwise the company won’t even consider me.’ No way. Too pathetic.

    ‘Would you mind giving me a reference?’ Less pathetic, but leaving too much choice in her boss’s hands to decline.

    There was no way she could do this. She couldn’t wait to leave this cut-throat, stinking excuse for a company anyway. How could she still grovel to ask for a reference?

    Money made the world go round. Not quite right – poverty made the world go round. Money never made anything except making some people fat off other people’s labour. It was poverty that gave people a kick up the fleshy pads to do things. Unfortunately, one of those things was obtaining a reference from her current employer.

    However much she wanted to hold her boss’s face before her exhaust pipe and blast off at two hundred kilometres per hour, she had to swallow whatever pride she had left and ask for a reference.

    ‘Hi Delia. How can I help you?’ The woman she’d come to hate looked up with a smile. That threw her off. In all their time together, she had never once heard her boss ask her a question about herself.

    ‘Well, I – I was wondering if you could, uh, you know…’ Why did words always fail her when it mattered? ‘I’ve got two weeks left, and, and…’ Forget super strength or flight, the one superpower all Hollywood heroes seemed to have was dispensing the perfect one-liner to their villains.

    ‘You only have two weeks left with us? My, how time flies. We’ll be sorry to see you go.’ She nearly wanted to turn around to check who her boss was speaking to, because these were not words she had ever expected to hear.

    ‘Could you give me a reference?’ The words suddenly tumbled out her mouth, dashing her carefully-curated sentences. Bold, direct and to the point. Leaving her open to an equally direct ‘No’.

    The other woman smiled. ‘Of course. Why didn’t you ask me earlier? I want you to know that you should never feel shy to approach me if you need any help.’

    One, she, Delia, had asked for a reference. Two, her weevil of a boss had agreed. Three, that weevil was being…nice? She had to go to bed now, because clearly she was dreaming, and if she went to bed in a dream, maybe she would wake up.

    She didn’t wake up, but in two weeks she did receive an awakening.

    She had asked for a reference, not a GOOD reference.

    Reply
    • Zerelda

      Ha ha ha. *Sigh* I can feel the devious…ness? Deviousness? That’s a word? The boss’ dialogue is so sugar coated. And it starts well too! It hooks you with her desperate plea and draws you in. Deep thought there about poverty.

      But, when you switch to summary mode at the end it kinda kills the vibe (Thanks, Zerelda. That was really clear.) I do it all the time too, just to wrap up the story, but I think this would be a really great short story (or is it an excerpt?) if you write how the last two sentences go down. She opens the letter and is dismayed to see the words lazy, late, uncooperative….

      The ending made me laugh anyway. 😀

      Reply
      • Stella

        Thanks Zerelda! Appreciate your feedback on how to improve – that’s always rarer and more valuable than positive feedback. The ending came partly because the 15 minutes was up and partly because I didn’t quite know how to finish, so I copped out. Also this is not a WIP (Delia and her situation came into existence with this writing prompt) so I’m encouraged to hear you think it’d make a good short story!

        Have you ever been in the situation where you don’t know how to end a scene or story? If so, what do you usually do then? One trick I use to keep a scene going is to think of what the reader expects to happen next, and then write the opposite. That’s how the boss’s dialogue came out so sugary. “Write the opposite” works to sustain conflict, but not to resolve it satisfactorily, so I still need to learn techniques for the latter.

        Reply
        • Zerelda

          Yes, affirmation is very encouraging but constructive criticism gives back.

          I am having a thinkers block. Yes, there have been many times when I’ve not known how to move forward in a story. That usually means I have to restart…and outline. Know where the finish line is and how I’m going to get there before I start running. (Metaphors! Yeah!) Otherwise I’m still in the brainstorming phase and I usually don’t write story while I’m still brainstorming. I try to set myself up for the least amount of editing.

          Reply
          • Stella

            Yes that’s true. I prefer doing that too, only trouble is that it takes me much longer. I have WIPs which are months old and wonder if I’m taking too long relative to their length. Eg recently I finished a 5,000 word story but it took me 5 months to do it.

            Feel like I should explore ways to ‘write faster’. Always a tension between ‘good work takes time’, and ‘done is better than perfect’. (Especially for this writing contest that closes tomorrow, which I’m still unsure whether I will enter yet.)

          • Zerelda

            It does take a long time, but you’re learning the whole way. I wrote a 1,000 word excerpt the other day and it’s taken me a month to reach the final draft, so 5,000 words in 5 months seems reasonable. (Have you done NaNoWriMo?) Some people take a week to write a book, some take five years. Are you a Ray Bradbury or a J K Rowling?

            I am not good enough at build stories yet to build a sky scraper. So I’m trying to focus more on short stories (ha ha). By all means, explore! Just keep writing. The better you know the track, the easier it is to catch the shortcuts (I’m sorry, I can’t communicate without metaphors). That tension is a good thing. It keeps you willing to do the nitty gritty detail work but also ensures that all that effort doesn’t go to waste in an unfinished draft.

            (If you have twenty bucks, enter!)

            P.S. I am so interested in outlining right now because I can know everything that’s going to happen so clearly that all I have to do is fill in the blanks. It’s like the whole story is laid out in front of my with no unknowns before I begin, and that saves me a lot of grief. When the time comes to write I can enjoy the confidence of my words not leading me into a dead end. I spend the bulk of my time building the structure so I only have to play with the interior design, not the whole building. And there are methods to make that neater too…I really need structure to what I’m doing or it falls apart.

          • Stella

            That’s so true! I think I struggle a lot with impatience. Wanting to see results in a few weeks to a few months, and if nothing happens I figure I’m no good at this and walk away. Happens not just in writing but in learning languages, making new friends, picking up new skills… But now I’ve recognised this tendency I can start to manage it.

            I attempted NaNo once. I think I finished at 36,000 words or so. But it wasn’t a novel, it was a loose collection of scenes featuring my protag with no storyline whatsoever. What about you, have you tried it? If so, what were the results?

            I can’t communicate without metaphors either! I finished the short story and entered it for the competition. (It’s a contest by Writing The City, not on this site.) Got feedback from readers that I use a lot of metaphors…attracted a lot of comments especially for one metaphor that didn’t work. (Literally every reader said something about it.) But hey, more constructive criticism for growth!

            Do you have a short- or long-term writing goal? Today I was thinking that I’d like to publish a novel within 5 years. But before I get there I have to do short stories, and before that flash fiction, and before that solitary scenes. I’m definitely not even short-story calibre yet, most of my pieces are 600-700 words. What about you, what brings you to this site?

          • Zerelda

            I’m the same. With learning Spanish, with piano, with people. But writing actually helps me with people because I find myself just curious about them and what makes them that way. The impatience comes in trying to connect with someone. I noticed how often I begin to despair by what turns out to be the third or fourth day on a WIP (or on projects in general) so I’ve made a habit of checking the date whenever I start feeling like I’m moving too slowly. And maybe I am, but then I can pace myself. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for impatience, but it isn’t in something as variable as writing.

            I decided to start training for Nano in October and managed to write 80,000 words for a story called Rocket Fuel and then in November I wrote about 51,000 for a story called Portals. Rocket Fuel could easily shed about 20,000 words of filler and Portals was filler- fun, ridiculous, space-adventure filler- but it really helped me break through the word count barrier and when I looked back over both stories I did have some really good scenes. Rocket Fuel was easier to write because it wasn’t forced and the MC was basically myself if I had lived her life. To finish Portals in time I spent my three days of Thanksgiving break and Saturday writing ten hours a day. 😀 Good times. So yes, I “won”.

            (Good for you! That doesn’t sound right. Good job! For entering?) I am pleased to hear that you entered. 🙂 *cordial smile* I’d love to read it. Lol, that’s the beauty of metaphors. You can hit the nail on the head nine times out of ten but that one crooked nail is impossible to miss. *gasp* Nailed it. *collective gasp*

            …..

            Short term I want to finish my current WIP this week (I got sidetracked from my priority WIP, AGAIN) and get back to what I was writing- which I’d like to have a first draft of by NaNo. Long term, I’d like to publish a novel or several short stories within two years. If I don’t do that I’m going to have to find another way to write. Technically I’m a freelance writer and I want to make that official. As I indicated when I mentioned Thanksgiving break, I’m still in school. (This could certainly go south.)

            That’s interesting. I actually find it more difficult to write very short stories. Probably just because I don’t have as much practice with that. But now that I’m thinking about it, 600 words is like writing one stand alone scene. I can do that. I can do that very effectively.

            What brings me to this site? I found it earlier this year, I think, and I’ve stayed because of the community, the team, the feedback. Interacting with other writers helps me stay out of my head and gives me the extra accountability I need to stay seriously serious about this. This is a good place to share your writing and get better at writing with the expectation of being read. And last but not least, the articles are generally applicable, sometimes relatable, and often helpful. I don’t have access to a formal creative writing course right now so this is sort of a substitute. I write, I read, I write…Just keep writing, just keep writing.

            But the real question is, what brought you here? And, how long have you been writing stories?

          • Stella

            Hi Zerelda! Late reply, oops. A published author I met at some book launch recommended this site to me years ago. But I only started seriously using it recently, as I’m between jobs at the moment and want to use the extra time to rediscover my love for writing.

            I’ve always enjoyed writing, but the first time I started writing stories that weren’t for school was…six years ago? (That was when I signed up for a Fanfiction.net account, anyway.) Six years of stories that never went anywhere. I’d get inspiration, scribble down some scenes, then stare at them until they went stale. Still learning to strike that balance between inspiration and discipline today! Inspiration starts, discipline finishes.

            You’re a freelance writer? While still in school? I’m having one of those ‘what am I doing with my life’ moments. Second one in two days. Yesterday I found out that a friend of a friend quit his job to take up some writing fellowship post in the States. He’ll spend six months in some beautiful green community, surrounded by likeminded writers, with nothing to do but write, AND he gets paid for it!!! I love finding out about awesome things other writers are doing, it gives me goals to shoot for. How did you get into freelance writing? What do you write?

            Anyway, my email is lightningbolt746@yahoo.com.sg. Feel free to contact me there! (So we don’t clog up this post with spam…haha.)

  14. Ai-tama

    This is one problem I come across when writing about a “lonesome hero” type story: because my heroine generally goes it alone, she usually just ends up stewing in her own self-doubt. To counteract this, I have some random travelers that she comes across and people she meets in cities and towns on her journey sprinkled throughout. I’ll probably give her a companion sometime in the future, though, to keep the story from getting stale.

    Reply
    • Zerelda

      I can relate. I generally write introverted MC’s who tend to be drifters. That or a group of three who….actually don’t have any friends or relations outside their group…oh… 😐 I’m getting better but writing truly diverse characters is my weak point.

      Reply
      • Ai-tama

        That’s pretty much how I am. I think I tend to only write what I know (introverted, awkward people–like me), so I need to find a way to break the cycle. It’s just so…hard. XD

        Reply
        • Zerelda

          Well, you have to start somewhere. Where you are seems logical. I’m training myself to outline at the moment, which is a struggle for me, but so far it’s just about resolve and writing down the words. I already know how to do it, I just have to build up endurance and learn some shortcuts (I put all my points into one skill at a time). 😀 Introverted, awkward people/characters make for great stories. I’m getting excited just thinking about the possibilities…How long have you been writing? I’ve been writing for four years.

          P.S. Personality types can be helpful for character writing. I use this site sometimes. https://www.16personalities.com/ You can take the test in character and make sure they aren’t all the same… I still feel like all my characters have the same thought process, but one thing at a time.

          Reply
          • Ai-tama

            Ah, yes. Outlining sure can be difficult when you’re just beginning to train yourself to do it. I actually consider myself lucky for having a middle school English teacher who forced the class to make outlines of all the main points we wanted to cover in our essays, but I remember how much I hated it at first.
            And I suppose you’re right–introverted and awkward people do make rather interesting stories. One of the main characters in my mythology novel has trouble in social situations because she was practically isolated from any other humans (besides her father).
            I would say that technically, I’ve been writing (or rather, trying to write) stories for as long as I could put a pen to paper. But I would say that I’ve been writing more seriously for almost six years.
            (Oh, and thanks so much for that link! I’m sure it would be a great help!)

          • Zerelda

            You’re welcome. Six year! Wow! Good luck (or rather, work hard and don’t give up).

          • Ai-tama

            Yes, and same to you, friend!

  15. Luther

    Will, shaking his head and frowning, rode his bike away from Dean’s home. The stop sign was not seen and there was a blaring car horn that forced Will back into this world. The news from Dean that he might have leukemia and probably die had brought Will to tears and distraction from the dangers of the streets. Will swerved just in time and rode his bike over a curb and into a yard.

    He had to talk to someone, as he had a possible answer to Dean’s disease and could possibly save his life, but it would mean sharing the limited resource. Approaching his home he saw Mr. Glass, a tutor for neighborhood kids and someone who always talked to them like they were human, watering his lawn. He braked and pulled to the side of the road.

    “Hi Mr. Glass.”

    Mr. Glass said, “Hi Will what’s up. Aut…Oh you look like you just lost your best friend. What happened?”

    Will surprised that Mr. Glass was so close to guessing the problem, said, “Well. It’s not that bad yet.”

    “TELL me what happened.”

    Will said, “Let me ask you a question. If you had lots of money and you had a friend who was sick, would you give up the some of the money to get them well.”

    “Will. You know the answer to that question.”

    Will, the frown on his face disappearing, looked at Mr. Glass, smiled and while turning his bike around said, “You’re right. I do know the answer.”

    Reply
  16. Anon

    “I thought capturing Landon’s men would be enough.” said Lauren. She looked through her windows into the distance , at the large span of martian red rock. “I’m beginning to think I’m not half as good a leader as people think I am.”

    “Do you know what this place looked like before you?” said the old man. “Your parents and I had to struggle to survive. It may be an unstable peace, but at least it’s some kind of peace.”

    “What good is a peace I can’t maintain? This won’t last very long. I need to end it once and for all.”

    “When has more killing ever been the cause of peace?”

    “More killing is always the cause of peace.”

    “I say find a better way, so that the people can start over again instead of repeating the past.”

    “They can start again after this. Once he’s gone, his rebellion dies with him.”

    “That isn’t how rebellions work.”

    “I have to try.”, she said, “you can go now.”

    He looked at her with disapproval but knew there was no way to stop her. He nodded his head , turned and left.

    Reply
    • Zerelda

      I love that, “More killing is always the cause of peace.” That’s the whole conflict of the story in eight words and it’s a complicated issue.

      Reply
  17. Zerelda

    I just realized, when reading this, that I do have most of these characters but they don’t really get to interact with the main character. It feels like she lives in a bubble! ( I do have a character who actually lives in a bubble. But that’s another story. *OOOHHHHHH*) Lets try to break the mold…

    “Can you light the fire?” Megyn asked as she gently sprinkled the last handful of grass over their little stick tepee.
    “Got it,” Emery said, his teeth chattering. He closed his eyes and began rubbing his hands together as if he thought they would spark.
    “Emery,” Megyn snapped. “I’m freezing.”
    “Okay, okay. Hold your horses,” he said, getting up and patting his stead on the back.
    Megyn bit her tongue hard, holding in an exasperated scream. She wouldn’t say it out loud, but she was torn between throwing him down the ravine and lighting him on fire.
    “Be calm.” She whispered.
    “What?” Emery asked, pulling his magic tome from the saddle bag.
    “I wasn’t talking to you.” She replied, eyeing him as he flipped through the pages. “You haven’t memorized a fire spell yet?”
    “Not for quarters this close. I don’t want to kill us.” Emery sat down in the frosted dirt and set the book in front of him. Megyn considered him closely as he drew the symbols of the fire spell in the dirt. His lips moved ever so slightly. She flinched as the tepee burst into flames and then shrunk into a simmer.
    “Fire!” Emery announced, snapping the book shut.
    “You didn’t cast it.” Megyn lamented.
    “Of course I did.” Emery said, turning his back to her to hastily tuck the book into the saddle bag.
    “Emery, there are barely six moons left before your training is over. You have to stop using spoken spells if you want to be a Sage.”
    She watched his shoulders scrunch up. Her eyes widened. She had only heard this silence from him once before. He was about to tell the truth.
    Emery turned around slowly, his careless nature obscured by fear. “Megyn….what if I don’t want to be a Sage?”

    Reply
  18. Holly Nettleton

    I’m thinking of adding the parental figure in my story as a deceased mother, either in flashback or internal voice/conscience. Not necessarily completely positive influence, possibly coming from the protagonist’s own ideas about what her mother would expect/want from her. I’m a little unsure about how to pursue this. Any ideas?

    Reply

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