Monday, April 3, 2017

Wimpy Protagonists No More

Have you ever read back lines from your main character, your protagonist, and thought: Wow, he/she is kinda...wimpy. For shame! But they can't be wimpy! Well, mine can't be wimpy. NOOOooooooo... (deep breaths).

I had this same experience happen with the oldest sister in my YA fantasy. She was supposed to (wo)man up, but after reading her back, she wussied up. And that is NOT cool. In fact, her younger sister was more brute than she. What the what?? Nah. Some changes had to be made!

The good thing is, the fix was easy. Truly. And fixing your wimpy character into a more (wo)manly character is easy, too. Here are some quick tricks to get your character to re-establish their role of cajones holder.

1. Paralanguage - stop making them timid, make them have a "straight spine". Look for descriptive words with their paralanguage and tweak them to say more profound/regal things.

2. Language - simply put, try not to make them "ask" so much as "demand". The character should tell people what to do, rather then ask if they're willing to do it. I made this change in one line, and the difference was astounding. (caution: not everything is a demand because that's just...rude. 😉 )

3. Move with a Purpose - make sure you're character is creating some of the problems rather than all the problems happening around them and they just seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. If their creating some of the problems then they're showing their unwilling to settle for mediocrity.

4. React with Purpose - BUT if there is going to be problems happening, because there always needs to be, then make sure they react headstrong and not cower. The old phrase "move with a purpose" is very relevant here.

5. Think and React - sometimes strong characters need a moment to show vulnerability before they react strong. This shows a very human side we all have, and the reader relates to. Once that second-guessing part happens, return to react with a purpose. That will show a super strength of going beyond our own doubts and striving to prove even our own selves wrong.

BOOM. There you have it!! Do you feel like you can get your protagonist's cajones back in place now? Good! The best part of revisiting some of the wimpy stuff and revising back to headstrong, was that I didn't keep reverting back to those wimpier lines. And don't think your character needs to be gun-ho every single second. Make sure to dash and sprinkle plenty of those "I am human" moments where weakness creeps in every so often. Well, good luck out there, and keep on writing!!


READ: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes (murder creates havoc amongst 3 kingdoms), Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill (girl on risky adventure to figure out her father's murderer), Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (camp fire tales of Norse gods/goddesses lives)
STILL READING: A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge (ARC), and Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
MOVIES: Trolls (cute but not that cute) and Beauty and the Beast (Great but not as brilliant as everyone built it up to be)
WORD COUNT ON YA BOOK: 59,403 (that non-round number is murder!!)
WHAT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY: new book idea I can't start
WHY NOT START: because I know I won't stop, and I need to finish this one first!

1. What is a wimpy characteristic you find yourself accidentally giving your protagonist?
2. What is one "wimpy" trait of your own?
3. Am I wimpy??

Love your guts,



Natalie Aguirre said...

I can remember how sweet and perfect my main character was when I first started writing. Wrong! I had to make her less wimpy and less perfect. Sounds like you're reading some good books. I can't seem to get enough time to read a book a week lately.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You can have a soft character, but she needs to step up to the plate sometimes.

Rachna Chhabria said...

My main character has a wimpy trait but he also has strength and ambition!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I've had to fix some wimpy characters before. I love it when an idea wants me to get started but I can't because I have to finish something.

Christine Rains said...

Excellent tips for toughening up characters. Sometimes I make my characters too polite like me. I have to go back and make them more demanding! You are so totally not wimpy. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Great tips! Waver but follow through.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

I was made aware of a wimpy character once because while I knew why she was afraid. I didn't convey it properly in the story and the person giving me a critique back then let me know they thought she was just a coward. Ouch. You are far from timid Tammy. You give redheads a great name. :)

Pat Hatt said...

Can sure find them wimpy depending on word choice, but some need to be built up too. Beat that wimp out of them lol

Sarah Foster said...

Great tips! Luckily in my main WIP this isn't a problem, but I have created a wimpy protagonist (or two...) before.

Elephant's Child said...

You are ahead of me on the Neil Gaiman stakes. I will get to that one too.
Wimpy characters? I find it hard to believe that you wrote them that way, and love your dewimpify hints.

The Silver Fox said...

Hm. Now that you bring it up, I don't think I've ever had a wimpy protagonist in any of my fictional stories.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I have a lot of wimpy characters. Then I (wo)manned up a character and she got rejected for not being sympathetic enough. I suppose there is a balance I need to hit.

Lynda Dietz said...

I can't deal with wimpy characters when I'm reading. It makes me want to scream, "WHY ARE YOU SO STUPID?" with each dumb move they make.

These tips are great! There is a balance there, and I think looking through your character's voice and actions while going down this list will help to spot it and correct it even quicker the next time.