Trouble connecting with main character

Question: A friend of mine read the first few chapters of my novel and helped me pinpoint a major problem: my introverted main character is becoming lost amid several other characters with big personalities and it's hard to connect with or care for him. How can I build sympathy and help readers connect with this shy character?

Answer: Well, without actually seeing the text, it's hard to give a definitive answer, but here are a few thoughts...

1. Are you writing in 3rd person or 1st? With an introverted main character, 1st person might be a better approach because it keeps the reader in touch with his thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Introverted people have a lot going on inside that the reader might be interested in -- including his reactions to the big personalities around him.

2. Even in third person, you can keep the focus on the main character by using limited narration. That is, you describe only what the main character perceives moment by moment (unlike omniscient narration in which you narrate from an objective perspective, like a fly on the wall).

3. Think about giving the main character a unique voice -- a style of expressing himself or an attitude that comes through in the narration.

4. Give the reader a reason to care about the main character. Some tricks for doing this include...

* Making him an underdog.
* Giving him problems the reader can relate to.
* Making him funny, charming, or likeable.
* Show him wrestling with a difficult problem or situation right away.
* Make him admirable in some way.

5. Also, ask yourself why you wanted to make this guy the main character in the first place. His personal journey should be one that you really want to tell, because it will be entertaining and challenging and meaningful. You need to be in love with the character yourself so that you want to spend a lot of time writing about his journey -- and that passion will come through in the writing so that the reader will want to spend a lot of time with this character too.

If you know why you chose this guy as the main character, then you will know how you want his journey to begin and that will put the focus on him in those early chapters.

Best of luck.

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