need help with main character throughline

by samuel gragg
(caldwell)

Question: I can't seem to come up with the main character throughline for my story that seems right.


My story takes place in a world, filled with magic and the technology from the previous inhabitants. It possesses two overall story throughlines. The first is about a revolution in which the protagonist gets himself into. The second is about a former inhabitant reawaking and trying to take over the world, using the main pieces of tech left behind from his time, the constructs. The throughline I need involves the first overall story throughline, the revolution. I already have one for the second.

Now the main character is "new" to these lands, I say new since he doesn't remember it (being one of the lands former inhabitants) eventually he ends up leading the revolution and I thought I could do the main character throughline on it, but I can't find a fit.

So I am wondering if you can help with suggestions for either the leadership thing or a new one that fits.

Answer: So, if I have this straight...

You have an overall throughline concerning a revolution. The main character has only just arrived in this world and gets caught up in the revolution, eventually becoming a leader.

Now, I can't design your character for you, but I can raise some issues that might point you in a fruitful direction.

First, does the revolution succeed? In other words, is this a story about a successful overthrow of an evil regime?

If so, then your main character is likely someone who will play a vital role in the success.

Which means he will resolve his inner conflict in a way that enables him to help achieve the story goal.

Second question: do you want your main character to be personally better off (happier, content, in a better place) than when the story begins?

If so, then his personal crisis (when he resolves his inner conflict) will be his
low point, when things look really bad for him, when he seems not up to the challenge -- so that his fortunes can reverse in the last act.

Third: what is his inner conflict all about?

For example, fantasies traditionally are about main characters who start off as nobodies but then discover and fulfill their potential in the course of the story.

They may start as insecure, powerless, underdogs. Or they may be diamonds in the rough -- people with gifts who are held back by something, such as a past trauma or a negative belief about themselves.

Once you know who your main character is and who you want him to become, you can build the arc of his throughline, which follows the pattern...

setup --> complication --> crisis --> resolution

The four parts correspond to the four acts of the story.

Setup: Begin by showing who he is in the beginning. Have an event that shows he is an underdog, a failure, or a diamond in the rough, the persona he will grow out of during the story.

Complication: As he embarks on the journey through this strange new world, he will be challenged. His old self will fail miserably at these challenges, and he will be pressured to become someone different.

Crisis: Build to a personal crisis in which the character is forced to change, to take a leap of faith, to abandon his old ways and become someone different (the person who can succeed).

Resolution: And the end of the story have an event or sequence that shows how the character is now better off for having made the right choice, how he has not settled into his new way of being or doing things, and how much better his life is as a result.

Of course, if you answered those three questions differently than I assumed, then the pattern will have to be adjusted. But that's the most common pattern.

Best of luck.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.


search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...


 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook


NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles


"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards



"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero