Man, This Girl Really Needs To Get More Interesting Before I Doze Off… zzzzz…

Have you ever read a book in which every character is more intriguing than the main one?

I’ve read a few books like that this year, and I have to say, it drives me crazy. These lukewarm MCs are almost always female, and they seem to have a tendency to really fade into the background of their story. Their best friend is super cool and off-the-wall. Their love interest is dark and mysterious. Their parents are quirky. Their enemy is cruel and oh-so-fun to hate.

But the MC herself? Bland as a beige sweater.

So, how do we keep our MCs from looking lame alongside their more interesting counterparts? How do we turn these uncertain, insecure girls into role models? Women we want to be?

In The Clearing, I found myself facing this exact issue with my MC, Natalie. She’s been through a lot, and is understandably a bit off-kilter at the beginning of the story. But, as the plot develops, something happens to her: a side of her comes out that she never knew existed. A side that likes to confront people when they’re jerks. A side that likes to subtly torment her awful roommate. A side that’s willing to put everything on the line to solve a mystery that consumes her every thought.

Does she become obnoxious? No, not at all. But she grows stronger as the story moves forward. She grows as a person. She learns a lot about herself. She does things she never believed she could do.

For me, I think this is the difference between a female MC that bores me and one I can’t stop thinking about. Are they all pitiful emotion all the time, or is there a little bit of an edge there? How does she change as a character? How does she affect others around her? These are the questions I think are so important to ask as we develop our MCs.

What do you think? Is there a certain female MC that totally rocked your world? Or one that left you feeling like you could have done without her? What do you think it was that made you feel either way?

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16 thoughts on “Man, This Girl Really Needs To Get More Interesting Before I Doze Off… zzzzz…

  1. Meika says:

    It occurred to me as I read that my MC just may be one of those emotional, whiny girls. Guess it’s kind of obvious that her creator likes the occasional beige sweater, huh?

    On the bright side, it’s only my first draft. I have three million other drafts to get her right!

  2. Anne Riley says:

    Meika: Absolutely! Listen, my MC had A LOT of problems for about the first 5 drafts of the manuscript. It takes a whole lot of editing to get your characters the way you want them. (Confession: I also like beige sweaters every now and again.) Good luck!

  3. Hannah says:

    Your first description sounds like Bella from Twilight. I don’t care much about her and I would’ve been happier never knowing her…well not happier but her existence did nothing for me.

  4. Anne Riley says:

    Hannah: Ha! Yep… Bella certainly had her bland moments, didn’t she? I felt like she was a little too helpless at times. I agree… if she would have been a little stronger of a character, I would have loved the books a lot more.

  5. Lisa Marie says:

    The MC in an adult novel I was working on started to get on my nerves every time I edited. I have 75K words and I’d read the first 10 chapters or so and think it was pretty good. Then as I went on I’d just think she was whiny and annoying. I always end up putting it aside, frustrated.

  6. Anne Riley says:

    Lisa Marie: I think we’ve all had times where we aren’t speaking to our manuscript. Maybe there’s a way you can change her throughout the rest of the book in a way that makes it possible for you to live with her. Good luck!

  7. Alexandra Shostak says:

    Oh yeah, I’ve definitely read books like that, where the MC almost seems like a blank intentionally, so that the reader can fill herself in (that’s my main problem with Twilight, actually.)

    One book in which the MC will always stand out for me is Sabriel by Garth Nix, if we’re talking YA. In adult, I seem to run into this problem less–though it generally seems to be substituted with the hardass snarky sex-with-no-love type of MC that hangs out in urban fantasy novels.

  8. Anne Riley says:

    Alexandra: I never thought about that – the MC being left blank for the reader to fill herself in. That’s a really interesting thought. I bet you’ve got something there.

  9. HeatherM says:

    Unfortunately I’ve noticed this trend too and have been just as annoyed by it. It has made me take a hard look at my own main characters. One MC that stands out as fascinating and a lot of fun is Rose from the Vampire Academy series. Loved her!

  10. Jemi Fraser says:

    I haven’t read the book in years, but Anne Shirley is one character who has stayed with me since I read the first page of the book. She’s such a great character – she learns, she grows and she’s never afraid to make really big mistakes.

  11. Anne Riley says:

    Heather: I have not read that series yet, but I have a feeling I would like it. Thanks!

  12. Raquel says:

    I like a character to rediscover their backbone. Maybe they were tough as a kid, or stood up for others and growing up just “polited” (is that a word?)them out of it. Something about finding your strength makes a MC memorable to me.

  13. Anne Riley says:

    Raquel: Totally. Yes. It’s awesome when a character rediscovers their inner strength, isn’t it? Great comment!

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