In the Person Hood

Before the post: When I’m in New York City, I’m always aware of homeless people. I read their signs and often drop a quarter in their cups. Last week, I passed a young woman, sitting against a building on Fifth Avenue. Her placard described her sad circumstances, which I won’t burden you with. I had no change and walked on. A few blocks later, a man swayed in the middle of the sidewalk. He had no shoes; his socks were just holes at the heels; his shorts bagged; his tee shirt showed an inch of skin at the waist. His hand on his begging cup trembled. I couldn’t ignore him. I stuffed a bill in his cup. I meant it to be a single, but I may have given him a ten. I didn’t care.

As I rushed into Grand Central Station and tried to recover my composure, the realization hit. I had just seen a writing maxim brought to life: Show, don’t tell.

(Of course, as has been stated here many times, writers have to do both, but the contrast between those two homeless people revealed the raw power of showing.)

On April 23, 2016, the Florid Sword wrote, How does one know which view to use? Picking POV characters and MCs is never the problem for me, but sometimes I have trouble figuring out whether to use first person or third person. Second person really appeals to me, but I’m not brave enough to try it. How does one pick a person view?

A few of you offered ideas:

Christie V Powell: I think it might depend on you. I’ve tried first person, but it just wouldn’t click for me. In third I can be a little more descriptive and have more fun with imagery, which is a strength of mine. Here’s a line from my WIP:

The predawn gray was silent except for the river’s roar, and Keita was alone in an empty yard.

Maybe I could switch “Keita” to “I”, but I feel like if it were 100% in her voice she’d be more pragmatic. She notices things, and thinks about them that way, but if she were the one putting them into words instead of me she’d say it differently. Maybe: “This was the perfect time to practice walking again, when no one else was awake to watch me fall.

Melissa Mead: I find first person most helpful when the MC has a really distinct personality/voice, and that’s a big part of the story.

Bookworm: Just start writing. Don’t bother with POV yet, and that will come naturally.
For one of the novels that I abandoned, I’d been trying to write in 1st Person POV. It turned into 2nd person POV, so I kinda went with it. It was so much fun, and then I got stuck, so sadly, like I said, I did abandon it in the end. . .

I applaud Bookworm’s willingness to experiment. I haven’t written in second person, because I haven’t had a story that seemed to call for it, but I did read a YA novel in that POV, and it immediately set the story apart. The book was about the MC’s depression, which was embodied in the way she (or he–I don’t remember) couldn’t seem to own herself with an I.

What I suspect is hard about second person is the danger of confusion. We want to be sure that the reader always knows to whom the you refers, whether it’s to our narrator or to someone else. So if we decide to go that route, we need to examine every sentence until we’re certain that clarity prevails.

I’m dreaming up other reasons we might use second person:

∙ a group-think kind of culture in which people are discouraged from individualism.

∙ a traumatized MC who wants to distance himself from his pain.

∙ someone, say, whose parents always called her You rather than by name, and she’s come to think of herself that way.

∙ our MC is ambitious but reluctant to own her ambition. She finds it easier to work out her schemes (for good or ill) in second person, as in, You say this. He says that. You shake his hand. He believes he’s found an ally in you. She begins to think of herself this way even when she isn’t scheming.

I agree with Christie V Powell that some writers may instinctively prefer either first person or third, and we can make a good case for following our natural bent. Writing a story is hard enough without forcing ourselves in every possible way.

On the other hand, we may want to challenge ourselves sometimes and try an uncomfortable voice. As Christie V Powell demonstrates with her examples, the different voices can bring different character and story aspects to the fore.

If we’ve decided to write in third person, we need to keep in mind the difference between omniscient and limited third person. In omniscient third, the narrator can relate the thoughts and feelings of all the characters. In limited, unless our MC has ESP, the narrator can reveal only the inner life of the POV character. I sometimes read books in which the author occasionally forgets, and I get pulled right out of the story. The mistake can be subtle, and many readers won’t notice, but we should still get it right.

But if our story needs us to inhabit more than one character in a scene, then omniscient third may be the way to go. Let’s imagine, for example, a panel of judges who are deciding the fate of our MC, who has committed some crime according to this society. Even though she’s guilty, she’s an ethical person, and we want the judges to understand that and not give her a long prison sentence or–gasp!–death in the viper pit. We may want to use omniscient third in our story so that when we get to this scene, we can jump in and out of the judges’ perspectives to heighten the suspense.

Even in first person, we can make a POV-jumping error. Our MC Jackie can be with her best friend Carly; they’ve known each other for years. Something happens that gets the friend mad. Jackie knows she’ll have this reaction to this stimulus. In my opinion we still shouldn’t write, Carly saw red, because the reader may think, How does Jackie know that? Better is, Carly’s chin went up. I knew from experience what that meant. She was seeing scarlet. Now we haven’t switched POVs because Jackie has explained how she knows Carly is angry.

We can write a contemporary now-feeling story in either first person or third, but I think it’s harder to write a story with an old-fashioned tone in first. I may believe this because the classics of my long-ago childhood–Heidi, Bambi, Peter Pan, Anne of Green Gables, Black Beauty–are all in third, and I can’t think of a single example in first. So the tone we’re aiming for can guide our choice.

I don’t mean we can’t write in first person and set our story in the past or in a fairy tale world as I’ve done many times. I just mean that there will be a more modern mood. Ella, for example, may wear a bodice and live in a manor, but she still has the perspective of a late twentieth century girl. In my books for the Disney Fairy series, I was trying for that days-of-yore mood, so they’re all in third person.

I find it easier to get inside my MC’s mind and heart when I write in first person. In third, I have to keep reminding myself that she has thoughts and feelings about whatever action is going forward. It can be done, and I’ve done it, but it’s more effortful. More effortful for me, maybe not for other writers. I’m more inside her when I’m using I, and that’s a factor in my choice of first person or third.

Here are four prompts:

∙ You think of another reason to choose second person. Write a scene in the story. If you like, keep going.

∙ Use one of my reasons for second person. Write a scene. If you like, keep going.

∙ Write the scene in omniscient third person with the panel of judges.

∙ Write the fairy’s dining scene in “Sleeping Beauty” from the first person point of view of one of the fairies, who can read minds.

Have fun, and save what you write!

  1. Hi!
    Your website is very educational. I’m glad that you give so many tips to your readers about writing. I first found Ella Enchanted when I was in third grade. I’ve always had a very high reading level and I’ve always wanted to write. I have one question.
    My first problem is that I always get discouraged when I start, so I never finish my stories. However, an idea recently came to me and I really love it. I know that you write fantasy, but my idea is realistic fiction. The main character goes through a very tragic event and a teacher inspires her to start writing poetry to help her express her emotions. I’ve always loved poetry, so I was glad to get a plot where I could incorporate it. Do you have any advice on how to stay motivated?
    Thank you,

      • Gail Carson Levine says:

        And I’ve written several posts on finishing stories, which you can find by clicking the categories box and scrolling down.

  2. EmergingWriter says:

    Wow! I just came here with a POV question, and look at today’s post! Must be kismet.

    By the way, I am new here. I found the blog through Gail’s wonderful book, “Writer to Writer,” which I just finished. I have just recently started writing “seriously” (although I try to have fun and not take it TOO seriously). I have a full-time job that has nothing to do with writing, but I do have a very modest word goal that I try to meet each day.

    Here is my question. I’m working on a story, currently in first person from the POV of the MC. She’s in a coffee shop on a date when her (female) boss walks in with a man. She wants to eavesdrop on her boss’s conversation. Is it okay to pull out of the first person POV and go into the third person omniscient POV for the conversation between the boss and the man and then pop back into first person limited for the rest of the story? Or are those kinds of antics strictly forbidden? I have so much to learn! Very glad to have found the blog.

    Keep up the great work, Gail!

    • First to third would be a hard jump. You could maybe jump from third limited to third omniscient and back, if you were very careful with it– my favorite YA fantasy, “Wild Magic” by Tamora Pierce, jumps this way. It starts from the POV of a secondary character, moves to omniscient (I love this line, which is omniscient: “When I was her age, I listened to my elders,” Onua said, conveniently forgetting she had done no such thing.”), and ends up with the POV of the main character for the middle and end. But that’s all in third. I’m thinking first to third would probably be a bit much. Anyway, in first you have the possibility of passing judgment on the conversation and making bad assumptions, which are fun and reveal a lot about the MC.

      • EmergingWriter says:

        That makes a lot of sense, Christie! Thanks for your feedback. (By the way, I love the line you quoted also!) I think my concern with staying in first person was that the sentence structure would get dull– “he said” and “she said” ad nauseam. I think you provided me with the cure, though, which is to intersperse reactions from the MC and also perhaps some actions (getting up for a refill, splitting a piece of pumpkin bread, etc.) that are appropriate to the setting. Very helpful… thanks again!

          • Gail Carson Levine says:

            Thank you, Christie V Powell! I agree that this switch sounds hard to pull off.

            However–just saying–no antics in writing are strictly forbidden. If we can pull it off, it’s allowed.

            I think the key to pulling this tough one off is to perform the switch more than once, regularly, in fact, so the reader comes to expect it–which means you need more than one reason for doing it. And it will help if you can signal the transition somehow, maybe by margins or italics or I-don’t-know-what.

          • Come to think of it, I did read a thriller (not my usual genre but I thought I should be well rounded) where most of it was in third limited, but the POV jumped in chapters between the main characters and the sub villains. Occasionally there’d be a POV chapter from the villains, but those were in present tense and almost stream-of-conscious style. It was hard to transition, but that disjointed feeling helped because it showed how the main villains thought and that it wasn’t in the same way as normal people. Let me look up the title… The Darkest Night of the Year by Dean Koontz. Don’t read it unless you typically read thrillers and other creepy stuff.

  3. Random question, Gail:
    For you book “Ella Enchanted,” as well as several others that use the same language, did you eventually create more to the Ayorthaian language, or is it limited to what is acutally used in the books? And, also: can I add on more words to it and possibly use it in one of my stories? Just wanted to ask your permission =)

    Second part to my question:
    Does anyone have some tips on how to create good fictional languages? Because I am totally, completely lost. The only thing I can think of is Pig Latin… help!

      • Gail Carson Levine says:

        I may have created a little more Ayorthaian than made it into the book, but not much more. I didn’t invent an entire language. As far as using my language, if you don’t intend either to publish or to profit financially from the use, then I don’t mind. But if you want to invent a language, I did write a post on the subject, which you can find in the Categories under “languages, foreign and invented.”

        • All right, thank you! And, no, I’m not planning on publishing this story. It’s just for fun, and it needs quite a few foreign words. Thank you again!

  4. Thanks for pointing out the danger off accidental first person head hopping. That’s how I feel about first-person blushing descriptions. “I was so mad. My face turned red.” No, you felt your face grow hot. You don’t know it’s red without checking a mirror. And sometimes the author does it when the character doesn’t have the right skin tone to turn red.
    I’ve always thought it would be fun to write something in second person future tense. The only way I could imagine making that work is if the story were a time traveler’s note to their past self.

    • That sounds like a very interesting thing to try. It would sound like the narrator is giving a prophecy about future events according to “You”, or like the narrator is in control of “You’s” actions. In essence, the narrator could be a very intriguing character in the story. That would be a fun experiment.

  5. The Florid Sword says:

    So on advice from this blog, I took personality tests for multiple characters for my WIP. It turns out that two important characters, one of whom is one of the POV character’s love interest and the other of whom is the other POV character’s mom, have the same personality type. Is this a problem? I don’t feel that they are the same character at all, but I’m not sure if this is just due to the fact that they’re in different places in life (one is a mid-thirties woman who’s seen too much and the other is a mid-teens boy).
    Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Gail Carson Levine says:

      Never follow the advice of this blog!

      I think lots of people fall into each of these personality types, and they aren’t identical twins! If your two characters feel distinct to you, they probably are. The tests are just a tool, and, in my opinion, when they’re not helpful, they can be safely ignored.

    • People with the same personality type can be very different. Take me and my dad, for example. Our personalities are so similar that my grandparents (his mom and dad) have said several times how much like him I am. We both are perfectionists, think similar things are funny, are natural leaders, etc. But, then again, we are also different in crucial areas. I love to be creative, I love to write, I love to read, and my imagination is boundless. My dad is more practical; he loves math, doesn’t love to read (he’s a work in progress), and works with computers and technology for a living. So your characters can have the same Myers-Briggs personality and still be different. Also, personality type alone doesn’t solely define a character. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) and Professor Moriarty (Sherlock Homes) have the same Myers-Briggs personality. We perceive them as completely different characters because of their choices (Moriarty is evil and Katniss is good), their friends and family (Remember the wise quote “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”), their actions, their beliefs, their environment, their morals, and on and on. Now, I’m going to assume your two characters are both protagonists, in which case they may be more similar than Moriarty and Katniss. You could give them each a few of the same good traits of the personality they share, but give them each a different fault. There are several faults to choose from for each personality, as you know. You could also give them different interests, because having different interests will make them both seem very different. Hope this helps, and good luck! Fun fact: My personality type is the same as Katniss’s and Moriarty’s: INTJ.

    • Hah, yes, this used to bug me a lot, but then I realized that I knew two people with the same personality type…both people who I was close to, and yet they are wildly different from one another. One is wordy and fond of throwing out random information, is fairly studious, plays the trumpet and is addicted to caffeine and isn’t overly protective of siblings; the other loves to fiddle with things while talking, and tends to focus more on the here and now, is not at all musically inclined, dislikes unnecessary noise, is extremely reliable and very protective of siblings. Same personality type, two very different people. Both are inventors–of sorts–both like math and science and both enjoy explosions. (Mythbusters anyone?)

      I use the personality test when I come to a place where I’m not sure how my character will react to something. I use the personality test to show me what would be a likely reaction.

  6. Song4myKing says:

    People with the same personality types still vary tremendously. Think about it – there are sixteen types for the 7 billion people in the world! The types show tendencies, and patters of thinking, but personality is composed of a lot more, including gender, age, and circumstances.

    One of my brothers and one of my sisters have the same type, but are totally unique individuals. Career choices are quite different, areas of art expression are different, many, many opinions are different. My father, my other sister, and an number of my father’s family members share a different type – and they are all so different from one another, it’s crazy. The type is correct – they really are all introverts, they all prefer the actual and real instead of the possible and imaginary, etc. But there are many things the test doesn’t cover – like art expression (while my aunt loves crafts, my sister spoofs crafts, but is a real artist in the kitchen) and ways of dealing with conflict.

  7. This is really cool.
    I have a question. How exactly would you write a kidnapping scene without it being to long or short, and exciting, but in its own way satisfying to the reader.

    • I think that would entirely depend on the scene. Who is being kidnapped, and by whom? Is he/she the sort of person who would fight back, or would they panic? Is there an audience watching who might intervene? Satisfying too would depend on the readers. If she’s Miss Average wandering down the street suddenly getting stuffed into a car, that could be shown as scary because that could be us–emphasize how out of the blue and terrifying this is. If he knows someone’s after him, is already upset because of a showdown with a friend, has a known enemy, or the like, you could build tension before hand which would make it longer and more exciting.

      One hint: I find it makes the character more appealing if they are acting and not just reacting to the situation. If the character fights back, or purposefully draws attention away from some other vulnerable person, or tries to draw attention from the people around her, we’ll care more about her than the weepy kid who sits and cries in the back seat.

    • I agree with Christie. Depending on your character’s personality and tactics in a tough situation, readers could get sucked into the fight, terrified for the unaware character, etc. Also, setting is key in a kidnapping. Is this scene taking place in an alley way in Chicago? Is it in the deserted ruins of an old castle? Where is very important. Your character who is being kidnapped could use his surroundings to his advantage. If he’s in the abandoned ruins of the old castle, perhaps he could pick up a stone to throw at his kidnappers. The time of the kidnapping can also make it interesting. Is it three past the stroke of twelve? Is it broad daylight? Is it early in the morning when the character is still groggy from sleeping? The time of day is a great way to set the tone. Weather can be used to add suspense. Is there a thick fog hanging over the area, causing the character to panic as he can’t find a way out and has no idea where his pursuer is? Is it raining? Perhaps it’s the hottest day of the year. I also agree with Christie that it’s more appealing and interesting if the character fights back. Also, if you want to heighten the tension, you could consider making it a chase scene. Just remember to have the character kidnapped at the end of the chase.

      • I actually have a story that starts with a kidnapping…but the first chapter opens up after the initial grab-the-girl scene and starts out with her being just about the worst passenger the two kidnappers ever had while on a long road trip through Wisconsin. I backtrack a little to explain things like why the one kidnapper is bleeding and why they confiscated her violin.

  8. I have a question. In my current WIP, my main character is facing an arranged marriage. I just started writing a soul-searching conversation with her and her father. Important stuff for their characters comes out but I can’t help worrying I’ve just alienated all of my male readers. Before whenever I have ‘girly’ parts I’ve tried to include other elements of things going on, but I’m worried about this one. So, do you consider the gender of your readers? Can you think of a way to make this scene less mushy? Thanks.

    • EmergingWriter says:

      Hmm… I’m afraid I don’t typically consider the gender of my readers. I suppose I probably should! You’ve got a male character to work with– the father. Could you give him some thoughts that read as more “male”? Not fully understanding or relating to his daughter, finding her more emotional that he might be, etc. I’m not sure, though, because on the other hand you probably don’t want to fall into the quagmire of gender stereotyping. Maybe the father is really very sensitive!

      • Thanks! Both of them come from a culture that is very stoic, so they will be talking more logically and rationally, but they’re still talking about marriage– and I feel like that logical approach might be even more alienating to teenage boys.

        I’m just remembering when I was a kid and thought ‘Toy Story’ was too mushy because of the scene where Woody bears his heart to Buzz when trapped in Sid’s bedroom. Not even romance, just high on emotion. Then again, I was a lot younger than my target audience.

    • I haven’t really considered the gender of my readers very much either when it comes to things like this. I definitely should think of this more. I do consider my male readers when creating characters, however; I try to create characters, both male and female, that will not only connect with my female readers, but with my male readers as well (but then again, we all try to do that). I think that if your male readers love your story and your books, they won’t be daunted by a few ‘girly’ scenes. I know when my brother reads books, he doesn’t mind a few kissing scenes or highly emotional scenes, so long as that isn’t the main focus of the book, and so long as most of the plot is action centered. He doesn’t let the girly stuff stop him from reading a book if he loves the book (and as long as the girly stuff is kept to a minimum), and he’s a 13-year-old boy who’s a die-hard Marvel fan. There’s no guarantee of how your male readers will react, of course, and since I haven’t read your scene I can’t give specific things to change, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I like EmergingWriter’s idea of giving the father thoughts that are relatable to your male audience. I was going to suggest adding a dash of sarcasm or humor to make it less mushy, but you said your two characters will be talking logically and come from a stoic culture, so this may be against their character.

  9. Your comment about show vs tell reminded me about when I was watching Les Miserables (the 2012 movie). As far as I can remember, that movie is the *only* movie, and/or other forms of fictional story media (including books) that has ever made me legitimately cry. And the scene that did it wasn’t any of the death scenes. (Though Eponine’s did make me tear up, I didn’t actually cry) Instead, it was the scene where Fantine, on the docks, was begging Javert not to arrest her, and Jean Valjean shows up and saves her. Anne Hathaway is an absolutely brilliant actress, and seeing her cry did it for me, though the music probably helped too. I was sobbing into my blankets (I was watching on my computer from my bed), and actually had to take a break to watch a youtube clip of her Oscar acceptance speech just to remind myself that in real life she was perfectly fine, happy, and her hair did not look like a naked mole rat’s. I think for me, what makes me really feel sad in the realm of fiction is not sad circumstances themselves, but rather characters *reacting* to those circumstances. If I see someone sad, I usually become sad myself. Of course, so far this has only happened to me with a movie (I think that no matter how good the description, there’s still a layer of distance between you and the book), but I’m currently working my way through Les Mis the book, so we’ll see.

  10. Florid Sword says:

    So I’m wondering: One of my characters is a young woman who is being used in various ways throughout the story by both the villains and the heroes (she is one of the main protagonists). She is a very docile person and not particularly assertive, so she is rescued (often by her love interest) frequently. I know that it is rather frowned upon to have a female character who has to be saved by a man. Is it ever okay to have a damsel in distress, when she is still a fully functioning character contributing to the plot and not merely a passive doormat?

    • Well, the most obvious example of a damsel in distress, Bella Swan, is the main character of a huge best seller. Katniss Everdeen has more attitude but she is also frequently manipulated, and her climactic choices are almost always based on intuition without knowing all the facts. So millions of people voted with their dollars that damsels in distress are very ‘okay’.

    • I’m not at all opposed to damsels in distress. But I do know people who object to them, so maybe something you can do are make her smart. You can be brilliant and still be manipulated. So just because she’s docile and doesn’t always have her act together doesn’t mean she can’t have a good dose of smarts. If she uses some common sense, even if she is frequently rescued, that will help. She doesn’t have to be a bird brain to get into trouble.

      Another thing she can do is LISTEN TO WHAT OTHER CHARACTERS WHO HAVE HER BEST INTERESTS IN MIND AND OBEY THEM!!! I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this: Male MC tells girl to stay inside, because the bad guys are after her. What does she do as soon as he’s out of sight. “He’s just saying that ’cause I’m a girl! I can do stuff just as well as he can!” Goes outside and is promptly captured (surprise surprise, she CAN’T do things as well as he can) and used as bait for the male MC. Ugh. I’d rather they stayed inside. Your docile character could work in your favor in this instance.

      • Another thing that bothers me in that type of situation is when that male MC tries to dominate her into doing things for her own safety. Yes, she’s not being very smart, but dominating her like that is not acceptable either.

        • So she needs to get herself killed? And most likely him as well, and who knows how many other characters? In general, I think if people are acting like children, they need treated like them, which may mean a stern warning and being sent to their room. I generally think the guys are pretty justified when they tell a girl to stay home, because she usually ends up messing stuff up and home is where she belongs. If she’s smart she won’t need “dominated,” but if she acts like an immature child, that is how she deserves to be treated.

          I do not mean to seem rude. I respect your opinion, and yes, I have seen instances where it’s just a guy being a jerk, but far more often the girl IS actually a hindrance, and should obey the rules from people who are A) older and therefore more experience than her, B) stronger and better trained than her and C) generally a lot smarter. Which is why I hate scenes like this. They’re a mistake on the part of writers who imagine they are making an “independent” and “strong” female character whose stubborn refusal to listen to her superiors is somehow a virtue, even when it hurts people. Disobeying an order that is in everybody’s best interest simply to show off how “independent” she is is not a virtue in any way. Giving an order to an incompetent member of a group or couple (just to be clear, I do not mean a romantic couple) is not “domination,” especially if the person giving the order has better qualifications (seniority, strength, training, a weapon, and brains in general) to be in charge than the person receiving the order, which is usually the case.

          And again, to be clear, I don’t think this is bad only when it’s girls doing this, guys do it too, though not as prevalent. It is a stereotype that is almost specifically female, which is one of the reasons I hate it so much. All in all, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a guy or a girl leaving the house and venturing into the woods armed only with a broom, it’s just an annoying cliche that needs to stop.

          • Gail Carson Levine says:

            I’d like to throw a little sand on this fire. Male and female character incompetence often makes trouble–lucky for us fiction writers, who thrive on trouble. But the story is in our hands. We can make it play out as we choose, determined more by the needs of our story than by principle.

    • Bella Swan is a good example. She’s still a beloved character by many, even though she’s not out there slicing and dicing bad guys. I think that as long as you make your protagonist a catalyst, then everything will be fine. As long as she has a mind of her own, and makes her own choices that affect the plot, she can be as docile as you’d like. She can still have a mind of her own and make her own choices even if she is obeying someone else’s orders all the time. It’s her choice to stay inside the house even if she knows she’ll miss the action outside. It’s her choice to obey the antagonist’s orders. Perhaps she could question the choices she makes, or perhaps she could have a reason for obeying the antagonist. Maybe she is very smart, like Lady Laisa suggested, and by gathering evidence by observation and wit finds out the consequences of not obeying the antagonist, or the benefits of obeying him. Keep in mind she doesn’t have to be a rebel to have a mind of her own. I think having a damsel in distress as one of your MCs is perfectly acceptable as long as she’s a fully functioning character, is multi-dimensional with a great personality, and doesn’t just react to a situation, but acts instead.

    • I think it’s okay to have a damsel in distress so long as she causes someone else distress eventually. Real girls have real problems and we need help sometimes. So long as she levels up and is less of a pawn at the end, great.
      A good example of a situation similar to this is Addie in Two Princesses of Bamarre. She’s the sweet, gentle little sister of an adventurous and brave princess, but plot necessitates her saving her sister, so she has to become brave. I adored Addie because I’d never seen a female character like her-let alone a princess character-get to be the hero of a story. There’s room for all types of female characters.

  11. Hello folks, I have a problem and I wonder if anyone can help me. I have two characters. We’ll call them Pen and Cherry.

    Pen is the MC. She’s a bitter, sarcastic person. She’s a nit-picker, and she is not remotely personable. Pen hates Cherry.

    Cherry is sweet and good tempered, always ready to laugh–a joyful person, very open. But because of this openness she also has a quick temper, and shows her annoyance fairly easily.

    Pen’s hatred stems mostly from jealousy. Despite her attitude towards other people, Pen is lonely. People don’t like to talk to her or hang around her because she’s so prickly. But people DO enjoy being with Cherry. Pen is ridiculously jealous of her, but won’t admit it. Instead she justifies her hatred by calling Cherry an airhead, and putting her down at every turn.

    My problem is, Cherry isn’t an idiot. She’s not the angelic sweet little Elsie Dinsmore or even a scheming Mary Ingalls. She’s a nice person, and she’s quite smart.

    Unfortunately, because Pen is the view point character, we only see Cherry through her eyes. Pen is a bit of an unreliable narrator because of her heavy biases, and the readers will certainly guess this, but at the same time her thoughts will shape the readers thoughts, and I don’t want people to think Cherry is a sugar-sweet Mary-Sue. How do I manage this? What are some traits I can give her to ward off Mary-Suedom, or situations where she could prove herself to be a three-dimensional character?

    Cherry is one of the main characters of my cast. She isn’t a POV character, and I have some very specific reasons for this. I’m trying to work on my characterization, and making all my characters multi-faceted and characters in their own rights, but with such a biased MC, how do I show Cherry in a favorable light?

    Any suggestions will be appreciated. Thanks!

    • It sounds like you need to have some sort of situation where Cherry’s actions say one thing and Pen’s commentary says exactly the opposite, so the reader can make their own judgment. Maybe Cherry does something that’s honestly nice, like withstanding Pen’s criticism or helping her in a time of need in spite of it. Maybe she assists a homeless puppy–because who can be unfavorable if they’re helping a puppy?

  12. So, I have a question that’s been brought up but not fully answered. Character flaws. I have trouble making my MCs have varied and multiple character flaws. I feel like they are all to perfect, and its really driving me CRAZY. They are all very three dimensional, that’s not the problem, They just need to be a bit more vulnerable and have more varied flaws. Somebody help!

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