Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Manuscript Research and Character Development

I recently got some feedback from some beta readers, "Your protagonist is too boring."

This is the last thing that anyone would want to hear. It may or may not be a difficult thing to change - but it is vitally important.  A unique character is crucial in manuscript progression. At first I loathed my beta readers and almost deleted them from my list. Well not really, but it was an initial reaction.

We all want beta readers to be honest and helpful. In this case, they were both. So, I sat down and thought about how would I bring depth to my character. I thought of two things; difficult moral choice and interesting hobby. Of course, I could have gone with a dozen other things, but this is where I felt that intrigue and depth could be accomplished.

For Difficult Moral Choice I easily chose Abstaining from Alcohol. In our society, this is a difficult thing to do. But, I felt that I could make the character interesting by setting down a rule. He wouldn't drink alcohol.  Then later he would explain why.  It happened to be a college acquaintance that died from alcohol toxicity.  Then during the story he breaks his own rule.  I needed to research the level of alcohol in the body that could potentially kill someone if they weren't used to drinking. It was a great addition to my character and his depth. We also need to relate to the character - even its only minimally.

The second issue was harder to find - an Interesting Hobby.  I chose a History of the Aborigines. Turns out, my character did a medical mission to Africa and became interested in the native indigenous in the region. He was given masks from the locals and voila another interesting aspect. I spent hours reviewing paintings, masks, descriptions, and others to make my character better.

In the end, I am so happy that my beta reader suggested some of the changes. It took some time researching and incorporating these changes but it really wasn't all that hard and I learned something new.

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