Let's talk a little bit about building a good main character. Now, I'm not saying I write perfect MCs, but I've listened to a lot of other authors about what they think on the subject. I've read. I've watched videos. And, of course, I've looked at some really bad MCs to boot.
Let's look at one of my first biggies. Your MC, especially if they're fresh-faced and new to everything, can't be a tactical genius immediately. Let's say your protagonist is training to become a master martial artist. They travel through the mountains and find a village where a grand master awaits. This master has trained for a lifetime to become as powerful as they are. If your protagonist becomes as proficient as their master in any less time or, even worse, beats their master, there's something wrong.
The master trained for years, decades even. You'll lose your readers if your protagonist gains the same mastery in months. And, logically speaking, if a rookie hero defeats their master in an absurdly short amount of time, how great could the master actually be?
Think about the things you've trained for in your own life. Is it writing? Music? A sport perhaps? Maybe you're a killer artist? Think about how long you've practiced, how many hours and days have gone into honing your craft. And still you probably (hopefully!) know people far more advanced than yourself. Can you imagine, with all the time you've devoted to your craft, having someone off the street say "Hey, drawing looks easy. Will you teach me?" And then within a month they're drawing better than you?
Next, they can't have things given to them. In much the same vein as not having them master skills in insanely short amounts of time, don't just hand them power. Make them work. If it's magic or talent, they need to earn it. If it's an artifact or weapon, let the struggle with understanding it.
Let's look at a recent example in She-Ra. SPOILERS. Adora is dropped into the woods and finds a magical sword. Yes, that sword turns her into the mighty She-Ra, but half the time she can't make it work. And when it does, she can't control the abilities. She has enough to muddle through her troubles, defeat the bad guys, and save innocents, but often she has to rely on forces outside her powers as She-Ra to win the day. She spends season one struggling with her identity as She-Ra, knowing that there is a greater power possible that she just can't access.
This lets us root for her, identify with her. Now imagine if she had full and complete access to her powers from the moment she touched the sword. Boom. Bad guys gone. No stakes. No tension. No drama. She-Ra shows up and everything is settled in five minutes. There would be no reason why she couldn't resolve every situation in five minutes, and that would make the series boring. No one wants their protagonist to be a god.
So that's a brief rant about writing a good protagonist. There are still many, many elements to cover, and if you want to learn more I highly suggest checking out the Writing Excuses Podcast.
Until tomorrow, DFTBA.
Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.