Fighting with my protagonist

I am so frustrated with my novel's protagonist Adin.

As a little girl she is tenacious, annoying, deceptive, vulnerable, funny and lovable, well I love her and that counts.

As an adult, I just can't connect with her. Which is a problem; how could anyone else ever connect with her if I can't - she came out of my brain!

Grown-up Adin is elusive and cunning. She’s made a career out being shrewd and lifestyle out of isolation. These characteristics are interesting enough, but having a conversation with someone like this is an experience akin to hitting your head repeatedly against a rather thick, abrasive wall.

I've tried to write out an interview with Adin to get more from her, but it felt much like the above. How can your own imagination be cagey and distrustful?

I've left it until now, and focussed on volume volume volume. But now I have a plan. Over the next little while, I’ll be thinking and blogging about novels and the characters that I love as a means of digging deep and finding the things that draw me to them. What makes me commit hours of my precious (and often limited) attention to reading their stories?

I'll start soon with ‘Rahel’ from my all time favourite book: "The God of Small Things' by Arundhati Roy. Wish me luck!

Do you have any tips or tricks on characterisation? I’m totally down with the weird stuff people do for their art, so please share!


  1. That's extremely frustrating. I wish I had some helpful words but I've come across the same problem and just can't quite fix it...yet. This is my year...I swear!

  2. Hm. Maybe Adin as an adult is too similar to Adin as a child. I think we need to see our characters develop. To this end, they go through some experience that causes them to change drastically, losing a negative trait or gaining a positive one. Just an idea...

  3. Hannah - we'll get there, maybe, hopefully....

    Melissa, thanks for your thoughts. I'm still working on and thinking about how I want Adin to develop... whether in a positive or negative way. Maybe whatever the "change" in her, it needs to be more dramatic than it's been so far?? Or maybe all she really needs is an eccentricity that she's picked up from sharing a cardboard box shelter with a batty retired contortionist in her teens?

  4. I like eccentricity! And that could certainly make someone become eccentric.

  5. Hmmm... Do we have to be able to have a conversation with Adin to make the book work? Seems to me that a lot of best-sellers have MCs that are not the type I'd have coffee with...

  6. Hi Lily, no I don't think protagonists need to be likable, but I feel like Adin needs to be more open, or interesting or something that makes her memorable? What do you do to get more out of your characters?

  7. It is true that you don't need to love your protagonist. In one of my wip's I absolutely hate my one character, but I love him for it. (Very bizarre.)

    I tried doing the whole "interview with your character thing," but instead I started a whole new book. It was helpful though, because I had a chance to write from the character's perspective. I don't know if you're writing in the first or third person, but if you're writing in the third person you could try writing a paragraph or three from her point of view. I don't know. I'm still kinda' new at this.

  8. AchingHope, I'm pretty new to it all too - I've been writing my first draft of my first since last year! Thanks for the suggestions! I like the idea of changing the POV.

  9. Michael Hauge stated at the workshop Saturday that a character should transform from their identity to their essence, from fear to courage.

    Their identity is encased in armor because it is protecting a wound, that created a fear (usually from childhood).

    The plot is the events that show the need for courage to get free of their identity armor, get some courage, and achieve a new sense of freedom and self because of being free from that wound and fear. The essence of the self is always happier, braver, and lighter because of shedding all that crap that's kept them from fully living the life they want.

    So each plot point targets one part of that journey from identity to essence, and the events poke at the wound and the character has to choose to get past the fear, one choice at a time. :)

  10. Hi Terri, thanks for your comment! This is really worth thinking about.