Who me? Not I!

On February 18, 2019, ashes to ask wrote, I have a problem. A big one.

I have been writing stories for years now, but I’m stuck in a rut of what I nicknamed “Same Character Syndrome.” I’ve made countless characters, and at first they seem different— some are blonde, brunette, or red-headed, they all have different ethnicities, etc. The thing is, though, they are all teen girls who are slightly awkward nerds. They all have the same speech mannerisms, and they like to look pretty. I’ve tried to make other MCs, but they end up degenerating into the same ol’ mold that all my MCs are. I’ve been thinking, and I think it’s because they are all embodiments of me, the author. It’s terrifying for me to realize that I am the soul inside these people whom I have thought so different. It’s like I wrote up a cloning machine, and they all come out of it with different faces and backstories, but the same stuff inside.

How do I fix this?

Suggestions poured in.

Christie V Powell: What if, just for a training exercise, you tried writing a character based on someone else you know well? I did that a lot in high school. I thought it was funny, looking back, that I had two characters in different stories that were based on the same person, but they were totally different characters. One was a peacemaker who tried to smooth things over for characters who didn’t get along, and the other was a major source of conflict for my main character. I’m not sure if that was the mystical character evolution that writers talk about, or just my changing relationship with the person!

You could also try using different characteristics of yourself for different characters. Real people are contractions, much more so than characters. In one of my WIPs, I gave all three POV characters one of my flaws (though exaggerated, I hope). One of them lives in fantasy/dreams and doesn’t handle reality well. Another has goals that are more realistic, but she tries to make them come true without always considering the work and responsibility involved. The third struggles with guilt over something careless he did that had terrible consequences. He’s also slightly based on a historical main character, for his physical/outer descriptions.

Melissa Mead: Have you ever, just for fun, tried making up a character who’s the total opposite of you? Or a different gender?

I suspect that it’ll help that you can identity ways that your characters are like you. Ex, if you catch a character automatically obeying a rule, you can come up with a compelling reason for them to break it.

Song4myKing: A friend once told me that she felt the characters were stronger when men wrote about women and women wrote about men. She said it worked that way for herself, because she had to think harder when writing a man’s perspective. She couldn’t just rely on her own ordinary patterns of thinking, and assume her readers understood.

Kit Kat Kitty: I find it helpful to read books or watch shows that focus on one or more characters that are different from the characters you would normally write. (Especially if these different characters interact with each other) This has helped me so much with coming up with different characters. And it’s not just how they look, it’s how they act or feel or what they believe. And although this has already been said, writing characters of the opposite gender really helps if you’re trying to write characters different from you.

These are great!

I often wonder this about questions that come in, and I don’t mean to put down the question or the questioner. It comes up because we writers can be so unsure of ourselves and so ready to turn our criticism on ourselves. Here’s the question: Is this true? Are ashes to ask’s MCs really clones of one another?

When we find ourselves making this kind of judgment, it’s worth showing our work to someone else to be sure. In this case, ashes to ask would need to show at least two stories to this other reader, who doesn’t have to be a writer, just someone who loves to read and loves stories and, above all, isn’t mean. If the readers don’t see the similarities, we may be able to drop this worry.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s assume that ashes to ask’s assessment is correct and all her MCs are similar and very much like her. Ashes to ask also says that they start out different but degenerate into sameness. What to do?

Degeneration means there was a process that could be halted. I generally recommend that we write an entire story before revising, but in this case revising as we go along may be helpful. Before we start a day’s writing we can look over the work of the day before. If our MC says something that is just what we’d say in those circumstances, we can LIST! other possible things she might say–or think or do. When we plug in new lines of dialogue or thought or new actions, our MC will take shape.

I like Christie V Powell’s idea of basing an MC on someone you know. When it’s time for this MC to speak or think or do or feel, we can decide how that actual person would react. One of my favorite of my prompts in Writing Magic is to think of two people we know who aren’t romantically involved with each other. The next step is to imagine that they’re forced to marry. Doesn’t matter how old they are. We can adjust that. The final step is to write their dinner table conversation on their first anniversary. The fun is that these people, finding themselves in an unexpected (to say the least) situation, will still be themselves, will speak as they would, will adjust to circumstances as they would.

Ditto to Melissa Mead’s suggestions about writing a main character who’s either our opposite in terms of personality or a different gender.

Or a different species or kind of creature entirely.

My characters are plot-driven. I come up with MCs who will both be challenged by what I’m going to throw at them and able to survive whatever it is. Most of my characters are much braver than I am, for example. In The Two Princesses of Bamarre I made up a shy heroine with reserves of courage. I needed her to be shy and not to want the quest that she enters into. By contrast, I’m not very shy and I don’t know if I have reserves of courage. I hope if I need them they’ll be there!

So, it’s worth thinking in the planning stage about what kind of characters we need to make our plot happen. If we’re writing a romcom, for example, we might think about the perspective on love that our MC needs to have for our particular romance to have many bumps but come to a happy conclusion.

My favorite example of a story in need of a character comes from the fairy tale, “The Princess on the Pea.” What kind of character might feel a pea through all those mattresses? I think there’s more than one answer, but we need to consider the question going in. (Or she might not feel the pea, but she has to contrive to pass the test.)

Like real people, our fictional characters are defined by what they do, say, think, and feel–most significantly by what they do. Our plot is shaped by what they and other characters do. If ashes to ask revises as she–or he or they–goes along, the changes she makes to her MC will affect her plot, and she’ll need to adjust.

We need our plot and our MC to work together. Let’s think about some situations. Our MC becomes embroiled in a secret society, but once in, she gradually realizes that its aims are malevolent and that it mistreats its members. Her goal becomes to undermine and destroy the society and to save the innocents in it. What sort of MC should we design who may succeed in the end but who will have a lot of trouble along the way, whose nature is both aligned and misaligned with her mission?

Or, our plot is about colonizing a newly discovered region, empty of humans but supporting herds of intelligent unicorns who don’t know what to make of the newcomers and are reluctant to share their place. The colonizers are fleeing their home country or kingdom because of their beliefs, whatever they are. Going back isn’t an option. Who can be our MC for this?

Or, our plot takes place in a time of famine. Our MC is the oldest child in a poor family struggling to survive. Who will our MC be, who will both fail and succeed in helping?

Or, in this time of famine, our MC is upper class and has plenty to eat. What kind of MC would involve herself with the starving and would both fail and succeed in helping?

I say fail and succeed because we need an MC for whom the task will be particularly difficult, to create tension.

To make our MC different from ourselves, we can ask how we would go about these challenges and then LIST! other possible ways and the traits necessary to carry them out.

Having said all this, however, let’s go in the opposite direction. Suppose we’re stuck with one MC. No matter what we do, we keep writing the same character again and again. All is not lost–even if this character is us in disguise. We know ourselves, our complexity. We come alive on the page. It can be a good thing. We may have invented a character, or a cast of characters, who can sustain us from book to book. Think mystery series! Think fantasy series! Think series in general!

Here are five prompts, which you probably saw coming:

∙ Try my exercise from Writing Magic.

∙ Write the scene in the secret society situation when our MC realizes that the organizations goals are not what she or he thought. For extra credit, make the MC not be your gender.

∙ Write the first contact between the humans and the unicorns. Make your MC blunder terribly. For extra-extra credit, switch it up and make her be one of the unicorns.

∙ In the famine situation, your MC’s older sister is close to death from starvation. Write a scene in which he attempts to find food and fails.

∙ In the famine situation, your wealthy MC happens upon the starving sister. Write the scene in which she initially fails to help.

Have fun and save what you write!

  1. In my current WIP (not fantasy, but that doesn’t matter) I have a male MC, Daniel who is close to another male character, Chris, who is sort of like an older brother to him. They’re both military, so they act professional and reserved in public. How do I write about their relationship without it being weird? Also, Daniel is very focused on what is happening, so I’m finding it hard to put in details. Does anyone have suggestions for me?

    • Gail Carson Levine says:

      If by “weird” you mean gay, I don’t regard that as weird. If you want to establish that neither one is gay, you can say so in dialogue or in narration..

      • I also/more meant “weird” as awkward or unrealistic. By the way, I thought of your chapter in Writing Magic on noticing when I had Daniel have to eat food he didn’t like.

    • You could play up the contrast between their public and private relationship. Maybe Daniel wants to give Christ a friendly slap on the shoulder, but realizes that if someone in their unit saw, it might undermine his friend’s authority. If you have brothers, or guy friends, watching how they interact with other guys might help.

      • The problem is, I don’t have any brothers, or much contact with the guys of the ages of these characters (25-30). Also, Daniel gets hurt early in the story, so he isn’t around very many people. And as I said before, there isn’t much opportunity in the beginning of the story to include background information.

        • If Daniel gets hurt, you could show their relationship by Chris coming to visit him when he’s healing, or always being alert to Daniel’s injury. Maybe Chris is a tad overprotective when it comes to over exerting himself. Daniel’s focus could include Chris in the major picture, or Chris could tease Daniel about it when they’re having free time (if they have it?).

        • Writing Ballerina says:

          I take it Daniel’s isolated or immobilized? There’s probably a lot of room for self-reflection there because he’s alone a lot (assuming by “he isn’t around very many people”) and you could put backstory in the self-reflection.

          • Yes, I was planning to use the time for reflection and backstory. The main reason Daniel’s alone is because he had to have surgery and they’re keeping him overnight. The story only takes place over a few days, unless I decide to expand it.

          • In most hospitals, it’s fairly likely that he’d have a roommate he could talk to, unless he’s in the ICU or contagious or something like that.

          • The hospital isn’t very full. While it can hold 500 people in an emergency, there are only 30-40 patients at the moment. (I could change this at any time. I haven’t put this into my story yet.)

  2. What do you do about characters who are present and necessary in book one of a series, but you can’t find a place for in the sequels? I’m currently working on a YA Fantasy series, a loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty with fairies. The first book takes place in a fairly confined setting, a magical competition on an island akin to the Hunger Games. The sequels expand in scope and take on more of a quest-like format as the characters go deeper into fairyland and explore more of the world.

    In book one, my MC befriends one of the other competitors, but she ends up winning the competition by herself. I don’t really see the friend playing a part in book 2 (she has no real reason to be on the quest, and since new characters are joining, I want to keep the character count down to a manageable level), but I also don’t know how to get rid of her and tie off that loose end. I do not want to kill her off. I originally planned to have her (wisely) leave the island once the murder and mayhem started happening, and then show up in a brief cameo in the sequel, having settled into a new, comfortable life. However, I’m worried that will feel unsatisfying to the reader, since two other characters from the first book (the love interest, the enemy-turned-reluctant-ally, and former antagonist she need to work with to defeat a bigger threat) end up joining the MC on her quest in the sequels. I’m considering cutting the character altogether, but I really want my MC to have a solid friend throughout the book beyond her love interest. Any thoughts on if I should keep her, get rid of her, or just leave her behind in book 2?

    • Leave her behind. If there are enough main characters on the journey, it wouldn’t matter to me as a reader if one got an early happily ever after. I don’t think all of the characters need to be on a mission in the sequel if they served their purpose in the first book.

    • Probably leave her behind. If she’s a major character in book 1, you might want to mention the reason that she’s no longer around in book 2, or even give her a send-off scene. If she’s a minor character, she should be fine disappearing. I have a a pretty large cast in my series, but only a few of them are major characters in each book. They’re also traveling to different places in each one, which makes it easier to leave characters behind.

  3. I have a problem related to the one in this post. My main characters are different from each other, but I have cookie-cutter villains. They tend to be manipulative, a bit aristocratic, downright brutal toward anyone who crosses them, and they like to work through minions rather than get their own hands dirty. I thought I was being brilliant in characterizing evil… until I realized that my current villain shared all those same tendencies with my previous villain, just with a different backstory and hair color.

  4. Writing Ballerina says:

    I’m almost done the first draft of my story!! This is really exciting, but it’s going kinda slow because I don’t know how to end it. Eventually, I’ll run out of plot points and not know what to do so I’ll abruptly stop and leave it for days trying to come up with how to resolve it in a smooth transition.
    Does anyone have any tips on how to transition out?
    Also, does this post make any sense?

    • Congratulations!

      Transition, or ending? Transition implies that you’re going on to something else.
      ‘Some of the most effective endings tie back to the beginning somehow. Ex, Lord of the Rings takes us back to the Shire. Camelot ends with King Arthur giving hope to a young boy as idealistic as he once was, even though up to that point, his own hope had been fading, and restoring some of his own hope in the process.

    • Have you looked at plot structure? Studying the “beats” that make up a story might help you. I like km Weiland ”s (her blog is called helping writers become authors), or you can see if your library has the book Save the Cat or the book by Lisa Cron (Story Genius? Is that the title?). All three have a similar system for breaking a story down into parts, including the ending.

    • Writing Ballerina says:

      Okay, so my brain was dead when I asked this question and I worded it terribly so here we go again.

      How do you end something satisfactorily? I want the reader to turn the last page, thump the book closed, sigh, and say, “that was a good book. I loved the ending.”

      I want to do this right, so I’m not going to rush the ending like I’ve done so many times, but it’s not as easy as it seems. I’ve basically run out of plot points now, but it seems too abrupt to end here. Plus, one of the characters is really not pleased with a new outcome, even though it solved one of his biggest problems, so I need to fix that somehow so everyone’s happy when I end it.

      What I meant by “transition” is a smooth ending with pacing that makes sense. Not just like “oh look no more plot points the end bye all thanks for reading.” I don’t want it to be like I slammed a wall in front of the characters with THE END spray-painted on it.

      Thanks Melissa and Christie for your suggestions! Any others are greatly appreciated.

      • I can’t help, but I have EXACTLY the same problem. The only advice I can give is give it AN ending, then let it sit until you find the right one. And, lest you think I’m oversimplifying here, it took me about nine months to find the right final line for one of my stories (And that was after I spent three months cutting it from seventeen pages to ten.) Sometimes I find the right ending immediately, other times, like I said, it takes a while. Hope this helps. If not, at least you know you have company. 🙂

      • SluggishWriter says:

        I try to outline my books enough that I know how I would like them to end so that I don’t run into this problem, but sometimes I still hit this wall. When I get stuck at an ending, I usually look back over the plot threads that I had going in the story and try to figure out which one I can tug on to find a “surprising yet inevitable” ending. The most important part of an ending, I think, is that you wrap up the plot threads with something satisfying. I’ve read books that don’t really have a “ending” per se, but they wrapped up everything well enough that I didn’t care about loose plot points.
        Good luck with your ending 🙂

  5. Mrs. Levine,
    This is unrelated to the blog post, but it seemed the best way to contact you. My English professor asked us to email or contact someone who is working in the field we intend to enter after college. I chose to explore creative writing as my “chosen field”. You are my inspiration for most of my writing, so I thought it appropriate to contact you for this paper. The purpose of the paper is to argue that researchers need to fill a particular research gap in our chosen field. From your experience, are there any “research gaps” that you have noticed when it comes to creative writing? For example, lack of research done on how to stay creative, or a need for research on why creative writing is important as an academic course. Anything that you think certain researchers should further explore that hasn’t been studied yet. I’d love to hear back from you!
    Thanks for your time – and everything else you have contributed to my writing “career”!
    – Annie G.

    • What kind of research project are you doing? Are you analyzing existing sources, collecting original data, or somewhere in between? Here are a few ideas depending on what you’re going for:

      1. The rise of self-publishing, how it has grown, how is it developing and how people’s perception of it has changed throughout the years. You’ll be able to find a *ton* of data because so many authors and bloggers have written about it throughout the years. You might want to narrow down your research question just to make the research process manageable.

      2. Trends in publishing. These can be broad (vampires, the dystopian genre, etc.) or narrow (first person present POV seemed to be the overwhelming majority of YA fiction a few years ago, but things have become more balanced since then). What were the major trends in publishing for the past X amount of years? When did they develop, and how long did they last? Is there any indication that trends are cyclical (vampires were big in the 2000s, mostly died out afterward, but there might be a resurgence coming soon)? And, if you want to get really ambitious, *how* do they develop? And how might one be able to predict them?

      3. How many writers work in the publishing industry, and how many publishing professionals write on the side? I feel like there would be quite a lot, except most people try to keep it on the DL because they don’t want their writing life and their professional life interfering with each other.

      4. What are writer’s attitudes towards publishing? What percentage of writers write with the goal of being published (as opposed to just doing it as a hobby?) How do they feel about the industry and publishing process in general, which can be quite competitive? Are they disillusioned or optimistic about one day getting a book deal? What’s their ultimate goal? Do they want to be a NYT Bestseller, make tons of cash, or simply have a book published that they can hold in their hands? You might have to actually interview people or collect your own data for this one.

      Hope this helps!

      • Thank you, Raina! These are great paths to follow. The point of the paper is to find something that researchers have yet to cover – so anything that hasn’t been studied, that relates to creative writing. Your second and third ideas sound very interesting, and I can’t wait to find out if they have been studied yet. Thanks again for your input!

  6. Gail Carson Levine says:

    I’m honored to be your inspiration!

    This is a topic I’ve never considered, and what do we do when we’re at a loss? Make a list! And on a list, nothing is stupid. So here goes:

    ∙ Geographic distribution of writers in the U. S. and globally.
    ∙ Is there a writing gene?
    ∙ What percentage of writers who have a first book published by a traditional publisher. (rather than self-publish) have a second book published the same way?
    ∙ What kind of magic spell works best when a writer is stuck?
    ∙ Distribution of male and female writers by height (from a height-challenged person).
    ∙ Growth curve in number books published in the last decade.
    ∙ Distribution of books published by year by genre.
    ∙ An investigation of humor in books. This one interests me most, studied any which-way: who writes humor, by gender, race, ethnicity, age; prevalence of humor by genre; recognition of humorous books in awards (other than awards for humor).
    ∙ Commonalities among the brains of writers of fiction as revealed in scans. Distinct features compared to nonfiction writers. Compared to non-writers.

    Take your pick!

    More ideas from writers on the blog?

    • I’ve heard that women fantasy writers prefer YA and MG while men go for adult fantasy. I’d be interested to see if that’s true.
      “Diverse books” is a trending term on social media such as twitter from people who believe that some races are underrepresented in fiction, both as characters and as authors. It would be interesting to get solid numbers on that.
      What about religion? I’m in several writing groups/organizations that are primarily for members of my religion (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints/”Mormon”). It seems like we have a high percentage of writers among our religion–there are way more females than males, and preferred genres seem to be YA fantasy or “clean/proper” romance. I wonder if there are similar trends in other religions–do different religions prefer different genres? Are religious people more or less likely to be writers?

      I would love to find out if there’s a writing gene. Neither of my parents are writers (my Mom says “I would rather bleed.”), but several of my siblings write regularly, and a few more have experimented with novel writing. Some of that might be us influencing each other, but I don’t think that explains everything.

      • Thank you, Christie! These are fantastic ideas – I can’t wait to go digging! It might make sense if there is a writing gene, because my Dad writes for fun sometimes, and all my siblings have written stories since a young age. Thanks again for your help!

      • As far as religion goes, I don’t think that Christians are underrepresented as authors, but there aren’t many fiction authors who belong to my denomination (the Presbyterian Church in America). This may be because we tend to be more conservative in general, and there are some families I know who don’t read books with magic. I’m certainly glad that my family lets me read books with magic, as most of my writing is in the fantasy genre.
        I don’t know if there’s a writing gene, because neither of my parents are writers (unless you count my dad, who writes nonfiction). Who knows, maybe I have a distant ancestor who was an author!

    • Wow, that is awesome! Thanks so much – these will work great!
      Hey, by the way, I am in the process of revising my own twist on the Cinderella story. Just wanted to let you know it is mostly your books (Ella Enchanted and Writing Magic) that have gotten me this far. Thank you!

  7. First off, everyone on here is brilliant at coming up with titles. I found an old post with a bunch of Lost Kingdom title ideas, and they were awesome. So awesome, in fact, I’d be interested in borrowing some of them, especially Hypergraphia’s. Is she (I’m assuming she, given that most of the people on here are female) still around? Would anyone mind if I borrowed titles they came up with?

    • Gail Carson Levine says:

      I don’t know if Hypergraphia still visits the blog. Maybe she’ll see your comment. However, titles can’t be copyrighted, so you’re safe.

      • Thanks! By the way, in this series, I need a title for a story where Prince Charming narrates the first half, and Snow White narrates the second. Any advice? She hatches a dragon pretty early on in her narrative, so I’m not exactly sticking to the traditional plot very well. I can give more details if wanted/needed, but that’s the gist of it.

  8. Hey, does anyone have tips on how to write about magic from a first person POV? The magic in my world doesn’t need words or gestures, and its not that big of a deal when writing about other characters using magic. But when my main character uses magic its harder. I’m not sure what to do with it or how to describe it. Help, please?

    • What is his/her background? Are they familiar with the magic, or is it all new? That will make a difference in how they explain it.
      I seem to recall a really good chapter in “Writing Magic” that talks about magic being in the details… and in mustard (my little sister is borrowing my copy or I’d look it up). So, the more concrete details, the more real it will feel. It’s not first person, but I love how Tamora Pierce describes wild magic in the Immortals series. She describes it as seeing copper light. As the main character Daine starts learning to use it, she thinks of it as “listening” and “throwing” and sometimes even makes throwing gestures or rubs her ears. It links something insubstantial to something that you can picture.

    • Writing Ballerina says:

      I’m currently writing a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the POV of Carabosse (the REAL name for Maleficent. And no, I’m not copying Maleficent storyline) and she has magic. In the story, she’s the Fairy of Courage and one of the subplots is her learning how to draw on that courage, aka her magic. I describe her magic as a cup filled with liquid courage, and it takes much effort at first to bring it into her chest where she can feel it. She can feel the small stream going from the corner of her brain to her chest. It feels satisfying and full. She also has a cup of curse. This feels sharp and acidic in her veins.

      (You can use this cup illustration, I don’t mind.)

      My point is that you can describe how it feels leaving or even sitting in your MC.

    • SluggishWriter says:

      I’ve heard that magic feels more realistic when you include a few different senses in it. There’s a part of the magic they can feel, there’s a part they can see, there’s a part they can hear, etc. For example, in one of my WIP, a character can feel the magic (it’s sort of a henna tattoo-like design drawn on her skin) burn when she uses it, she can see it light up, and she can hear a low thrumming sound. Taste and smell are probably not used as much, but I think a magic system that included one of those would be really interesting.

  9. Katie W.

    A good place to start for titles would be to include the names of your characters, or some ideas from the plot in your title. For example Pride And Prejudice. Sense and Sensibility. Romeo and Juliet. North and South.
    You could also pick something important to the plot, like a special artifact that the characters have to use/find/destroy/etc, and use that as your title. For example The Phantom Tollbooth, The Silver Chair, The Spear of Diamond (the current title for my WIP). You might also want to think about the word length of your title. I personally think Fantasy books work well with longer titles (three words or more) but you can have your title as long as you like. Mrs. Levine also has some posts on titles.
    I hope I was able to help, but if you need something more specific, would you be able to give a little more information about the plot and characters?

    • The tricky thing here is that Prince Charming narrates the first half, and Snow White does the second half. Codairem and Aelthen (or vice versa) doesn’t sound quite right. The plot goes something like this. Codairem (Prince Charming) is the crown prince of a warrior nation, but he secretly trains to be an apothecary. When his father finds out, he banishes him for 5 years. During his travels, he ends up near the mountains where some gnomes live. One night, a gnome comes in, saying that their servant girl won’t wake up, and he thinks she’s been poisoned. The girl, Aelthen, is Snow White. Codairem gives her the antidote to the poison, and learns her story. I switched things up a bit, so she has an evil stepfather, and she’s working for the gnomes to get jewels to hatch a dragon egg. Codairem and Aelthen work together to reveal her stepfather’s treachery, and the dragon hatches along the way. Codairem’s narrative ends just after he gives Aelthen the antidote, so the two don’t have much in common. Thanks for the tips, though. I might be able to use them for some of my other WIPs.

      • Writing Ballerina says:

        You could do some sort of play on words with the original title of the fairy tale (eg. Snow White becomes, I don’t know, Aelthen White ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

        Once I read a rather humorous retelling of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty that switched POVs from the Prince to Aurora and back and forth. It was called “Twice Upon a Time.” As Mrs. Levine said, titles can’t be copyrighted so you could use it.

        Hope this helps.

        • I have Aelthen meaning “Winter/Snow/Frost.” Something like that. Haven’t actually quite decided yet. I’ve seen the Twice Upon A Time books, by Wendy Mass. Haven’t read them, but most of her stuff is awesome. I do like the idea of doing an eponymous title with a twist, though. For example, another WIP in the series is probably going to be named Antreath, or “Queen,” because a queen is the main character. Unfortunately, Codairem and Aelthen are about equal partners, and there’s not much you can do with “Paragon” in a title.

          • Actually, I think Paragon would make a cool title. I just typed it into goodreads and got quite a few books with the word in their title or series title. White Paragon, perhaps, to tie in the fairy tale? Winter Paragon? They’re both royalty, I assume, so Royal Paragon?

      • I’ve noticed that a lot of book titles lately take the form of [Dramatic noun] And [Dramatic noun] (ex: Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, Tracy Banghart’s Grace and Fury) or [Noun] of [Dramatic noun] and [Dramatic noun] (ex: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas). Maybe you could do something like that, with a symbolic word that represents each of your main characters? For example: Snow (for Aelthen) and Steel/Sword/[some apothecary term] (for Codairem). This title generator has a nice list of cool words to use: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/AYpKAz3M5OljaeS260YTumEck17Nh1Fh0I45EZQax0zPNEqFjKGaxqo/ You can also find more like this in a quick Pinterest search (YA Fantasy title generator)

        • Thanks for the tip! I’ve been playing with the idea, but can’t figure out which words to use. The current idea is to call it “The Heirs Apparent.” The prequel’s title has something to do with “Queen,” and I can do something similar for the finale, “The Rebellion’s Victory” or something like that.

  10. Yeah. I was thinking “Paragon” for his section title already. That would be neat, though. Figure out what Aelthen’s section title will be and figure out a way to combine the two in the title. Full disclosure here: I haven’t actually started writing this yet. I wrote three short stories about them and one about the first book, but that’s it. The only problem I have with “Paragon” is its similarity to other famous names (Aragon, Aragorn, Eragon, etc.) Although that probably won’t stop me.

  11. Besides, I don’t want it to sound too much like Codairem is the only main character. I think my problem stems from the way these are basically two different stories. The two of them meet when he’s nine and she’s seven, then go their separate ways for ten years. (Brainstorming alert) I could have them meeting every now and then throughout that time, especially since Aelthen has some really interesting backstory that I wouldn’t be able to get to otherwise without interrupting Codairem’s story. That might work. Of course, I might not be writing this for another two years, since I have a mostly completed novel to finish that has nothing to do with this and the first book in the series to write. At this point, I’m just looking for a title to give it while I’m working on it (i.e., something besides “[Series] 2”

    • If you just need a title, something I’ve done is just call it by the name of the main character. If you have the two, you could just refer to it as “Codairem and Aelthen” or whatever. It might not work that well for this story, but it worked for one of my other books. I was calling it Fidda, after the main character, and literally right after I typed “the end” and someone asked me what I called it, the right name for the book just popped into my head and I haven’t found a need to change it yet.

  12. SluggishWriter says:

    This post was extremely helpful, I often run into the same problem. I feel like I tend to make characters more like me when I write in first person. Does anyone have any advice? I’ve read some wonderful, unique characters written in the first person, but I find it hard to find a characters voice when I’m writing “I” and “me” and “myself.”

    • Kit Kat Kitty says:

      Have you ever acted? I’m asking because when I read the question, the first thing that popped into my head was: “Pretend to be the character” I often find that when I say lines out loud as if I was the character, acting out a certain scene, that helps get more into there mindset. That way when you say “I” or “me” in your head, you’re already used to the idea that you’re pretending to be someone else. And this is coming from someone who has very little acting experience, though I do enjoy it.
      If you don’t want to “act”, it might help if you get your character talking about a trait they have, or something they like, that you don’t. This doesn’t even have to go in the book. You could write it down anywhere. That way, in your head, your character talks and likes different things from you.
      It might also help to watch yourself. List all the little things you do that other people don’t. Notice your thinking and speaking patterns, and think of different ways your character could talk and think. Are there details your character might notice about a scene that you wouldn’t? For example, if they like birds then perhaps they would take note of how big there crazy uncle’s bird is, and the color of its feathers when another character wouldn’t. If they don’t like their voice, they might try to find ways to talk as little as possible, even if there they have very well thought out ideas and opinions.
      I hope this helps! (And sorry if I went a little off topic)

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