As you know if you’ve been reading my recent posts, I’ve been hard at work revising my MG Fantasy. Last week I wrote about how one of my two main characters (aka MCs), my street rat, didn’t have a unique voice. This week, I thought I’d focus on my other MC’s problem: her heart. Or, more specifically, her heartline. She didn’t have one.
That’s right, my poor little girl just puttered through the story without making any major emotional changes. After everything that happened to her in the course of the manuscript, she was pretty much the same character at the end as she was at the beginning. Even worse, the closest thing she had to an emotional breakthrough – reuniting with her family – was just too close to my street rat’s emotional journey. So she had to change.
I was stumped. I just didn’t know how to fix the problem. Until someone pointed out that the best way to find my character’s heart was through her soul. That’s right, I needed to know my character inside and out. I knew who she was during the course of the story, but who had she been before? What were her interests? Her hobbies? Her dreams?
Usually I’m pretty good at knowing my characters. I have a little questionnaire that I fill out for each major character, so I can get an idea of their motivations. But I didn’t do it for this manuscript. I think it’s because it’s a historical fantasy. I just brushed off most of the questions as not applicable (favorite music? pet’s name? social media outlets? N/A, N/A, N/A). But in doing so, I left my characters incomplete.
So I dusted off that questionnaire and started answering it. Sure, I left a few blanks. But I had enough answers to make me feel like I knew my girl well enough to give her an emotional journey. Now I just have to go through the manuscript and give her a bit of a personality adjustment.
The best part? The things I’ve learned about my characters have helped make my world more complete, too. Knowing their hobbies, and their hopes, has filled some of the holes in the world I’ve created.
So next time you’re struggling with a character’s heart, take a close look at how well you know their soul. You might be surprised by what you learn.