The Easiest Type of Character to Write (What I Learned Writing Storming)

The Easiest Type of Character to Write (What I Learned Writing Storming)

This week’s video shows you why this particular type of character takes much of the burden out of writing your story’s First Act.

Video Transcript:

Storming K.M. WeilandWelcome to the second video in my month-long series of things I learned while writing my soon-to-be-released aviation-adventure novel Storming—which comes out December 4th!

I have to say, writing this book was one of the best writing experiences I’ve ever had. The whole process just worked from start to finish. I wrote the first draft in about four months, no major rewrites required, and it was just fun. That made me start asking, Why? What about this story made it so much easier to write than other stories?

Lots of reasons for this, but one big one was the fact that this book featured what is perhaps the easiest type of character to write. Sounds pretty good, right? So how can you steal this character type and use it to have lots of fun writing your own book?

Basically, it comes down to writing the kind of character whose story is already in medias res—or in the middle. My biplane pilot protagonist in Storming starts out with his life journey already underway. He’s already got major backstory issues with his family, he’s already established as a flyer, he knows what he wants out of life—which means I had less to juggle in that precious set-up time of the First Act.

Contrast this with, say, a coming-of-age story. The protagonist in this kind of story is basically starting at ground zero—and therefore is going to force the author to invest a lot more work and setup and development in the very beginning before actually getting to the main conflict.

Now, obviously, it’s not that the in medias res character is “right” and the coming-of-age character is “wrong.” Not at all. Which character you write totally depends on which type of story you’re writing. But just keep in mind that the in medias res characters are often a little easier to write in the story’s beginning—and then just enjoy that magic when it happens.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! What do you think is the easiest type of character to write? Tell me in the comments!

The Easiest Type of Character to Write (What I Learned Writing Storming)

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. Hmmm. Unless I’ve misunderstood you, I’m not sure I agree.

    Are you saying that writing a story from the POV of a younger character is perhaps more difficult than writing a story from the POV of a more mature character with more life history?

    I’ve only written a few scenes from the POV of a young girl, and then I cut them from the story, but while I was writing from her POV, the writing went smoothly and quickly because I knew her and loved her, and I could hear her talking. One day I may write an entire story from the POV of a child (e.g., ROOM.)

    For me, a character will basically write the story for me, i.e., the writing will go quickly and smoothly IF I get to the point where the character really comes to life for me and I can hear them talking even when I’m not writing, i.e., the character possesses me for a while.

    So, I’m wondering: did I misunderstand you?

    • She wasn’t saying that younger characters are harder to write, she was just using them as an example because the coming of age story is well known. What she was saying is that it’s easier to write about a character who alreadys knows what she wants and is working towards those goals (think of a character who is already seeking revenge at the beginning of a story). Characters who don’t have a clear goal in the beginning are harder in the sense that they require more time to set up in the intro.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      First of all, of course, every character is subjective. But along the lines of what Darkauras is saying, I’m not *necessarily* talking about younger characters being more difficult to write. This has more to do with a character, of any age, who already has certain things figured out about his world and solid goals in place. My current WIP Wayfarer is a coming-of-age story about a 19-year-old boy. His opening act was much harder to write than Storming‘s, in part because he had a lot of things to get figured out about himself, his world, and his goals before the story could really get rolling. There’s a side character in the same story who is a nine-year-old girl. She already has things *totally* figured out, so If I’d been writing from her POV, certain things would have been easier to juggle. Age really isn’t a factor, and, ultimately, every type of character presents its own challenges.

    • I wouldn’t think so. I think it’s more a matter of the maturity level and amount of background experience more than age. And “maturity” isn’t necessarily synonymous with “age”; it only has to center on any important element in the story (possibly the main character’s own specialty). For example, the character could already be a well experienced cop or FBI agent with a more fleshed-out personality, and still be half the age of another FBI character from another story just starting on his character arc journey.

      This might explain why my (collab) sci-fi series is doing so much better than my fantasy novel– my protagonist in the sci-fi one is already well-developed; she already went through one major changing period, overcoming certain obstacles in her life, though she has another one coming up in-story. In the fantasy, both my protags are older than in the other one, and they’re starting a bit further behind.

      Age of fantasy novel: >8 years.
      Age of sci-fi series: <4 years
      Chapters completed in fantasy novel: +/- 11
      Chapters completed in sci-fi series: 109 before reboot/ 10 and rapidly counting after reboot
      Future for fantasy: kinda sure, but kinda not
      Future for sci-fi: I have the next year or so worth of adventures mapped out for my main character
      Protags in fantasy: dull and need more work
      Protag in sci-fi: WHY isn't she real??? I need her in my life!

      • Haha, I got ninja’d by KM while I was taking my dear sweet time trying to reply, and it figures, she explained it much better than I did.

        “This has more to do with a character, of any age, who already has certain things figured out about his world and solid goals in place.”

        This. This right here. My sci-fi protag already knows what she’s going to do with her life, already has *most* of her education completed to pursue it, and has already been through some solid life changes from which she made sure to take away important lessons– as compared to my fantasy, where one protag seems to be doing well, but has everything suddenly taken away and must decide what to do from here, and the other who… uh… seems to be doing well, but has everything suddenly taken away and must decide what to do from here… Hmmm. >.>;

  2. This is an interesting observation of yours, and I can see how it made the beginning of your story easy to get into. I’ve often found it easier to write a character into a story if I can base them on a particular actor or actress. It’s easy to imagine them in a scene and how they would react, mannerisms etc. Of course, this approach has its drawbacks e.g. the temptation to allow the character to follow a set stereotype and therefore to lack originality. Maybe this ease of getting into a character and her/his backstory is an extension of ‘write what you know’ – if their backstory, flaws, conflicts etc. don’t require much research, the writer finds it quicker to ‘get into the flow.’

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Casting (as I talked about in this recent post about Storming) is one of my guilty pleasures. I get a lot of use out it myself.

      • My mom relies on casting, but I can’t seem to pull it off. As soon as I have someone in mind, my character turns really defiant and resentful and goes a different direction. (“James Earl Jones? What?? I’m a wiry computer nerd who falls over when people sneeze on me. Forget you. I’m going back to my lab.” *Trips over everything on the way out the door.*)

        Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just doesn’t work the way I plan it initially. 😛

  3. I’ll be interested in seeing how this plays out with two of my ideas I have right now. One story starts off with the protagonist on the run with just about everything bad that could happen to her, already happened. In my other idea, I have to introduce everyone and everything before I can sock my protagonist with anything.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I’d be interested to hear your experience too. My current WIP sounds like your second one. It was totally different from Storming–and its First Act was a lot harder to write. :p

      • My two stories are pretty different themselves; my second one is set in Victorian England—isn’t your current WIP in Regency England? 😉 I’m kind of expecting the second one to get off to a slow start, ’cause I’m pretty sure I’m going to need almost the entire first act to get everything going.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

          Technically, just past the Regency period in 1820 after the prince regent took the throne. But I’m calling it Regency. :p

  4. Kinza Sheikh says:

    It’s my moment of envying you. Since that really was the hardest part in my WIP. Thrusting the protagonist into the story because he started in a bit too comfortable zone. Life was a bed of roses for him before that.
    But surely, a lot of delicious underlying tension in the middle chapters is thanks to that hard beginning. But surely, it will be easier. (so I am gonna steal it for my next project 😉 )

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Hah. Honestly, I envied *myself* a lot while writing my current WIP, which came after Storming. It wasn’t the same experience at all. :p Every book is its own adventure.

  5. K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

    Or combine the best of both worlds. 🙂

  6. I *think* I see your point. Maybe that’s why starting my last story where the main characters’ conflict begins made it easier to write than some of my others that started with the characters before they faced any conflict. This time their personalities show up as already established. I know them better even though I haven’t spent as much time on the page with them. Interesting concept … thanks!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      You’ve got it. I think the “personalities show up as already established” is key to this concept. Other characters, such as coming-of-age characters, go through a more drastic personal evolution and don’t always start out quite so “solid” in the beginning. It makes them trickier to write sometimes.

  7. I think this can be true. Certainly opening lines (which is one way I frame out scenes and stories) are easier to come by in media res, because the things that people say or do can just be priceless. But it depends on the character.

    I’m writing a series backwards, Book 1 after Book 2, and the reason was my in media res was “too res” (sic). 😉 Beta readers enjoyed it, but whenever I mentioned the backstory elements that I had mapped out, their eyes lit up and they wanted MORE of those elements. They wanted to see the character go through those trials of becoming. Now, this could also be due to me putting way too many cool things in the backstory, but *shrugs* it means I have another book to write!

    Another thing that can difficult with established characters is explaining a complicated fantasy world. A newer character closer to ground zero has more reason to ask questions, need things explained, and (depending on the personality) try new things. An established character can tend to be more narrowly focused on their agenda, which makes it harder to show the world in a natural way (unless you toss in a side character who asks questions).

    In the end, it comes down to characters and their personalities and motivations!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Complex and interesting backstories are important. But there definitely comes a point where the backstory can end up being more interesting than the main story. I’ve gotten myself into that fix a couple times too!

  8. I agree. It is easier to write stories where characters already know what they want. However, like everyone else has commented, writing a novel where the characters are trying to figure out what they want is a challenge.

    I’ve been hitting this wall for 16 years as I slowly worked on a historical WW2 novel (school and life interrupted the process). As the author, I finally know what my characters want, and the writing is much easier! In fact, I’ve gone backwards with my second novel and created a backstory novel to why one of the characters acts the way he does in the first novel.

    Katie, is this an okay thing to do, if I’m writing a trilogy? (In this second novel, sort of explaining a mystery element from the first novel.)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      It definitely sounds like an interesting approach. As long as the hook at the end of your first book doesn’t make readers crazy to know what happens *next*–therefore disappointing them when they find out Book 2 is about what happened *before*–I think it has interesting potential.

      • The way I’ve set up Book 1 and ended it, I believe readers will be interested to find out that there’s a Book 2 about the father of my main character from Book 1. (I’ve been test-pitching this idea with fellow writers and average readers, but haven’t tried the online writing world yet. ;D )

  9. Claudia M. says:

    Can someone please help me? What’s the difference between putting words in quotations marks (“) and putting words in asterisks (*)? I can’t for the life of me figure it out!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Quote marks indicate

      • Someone talking or being quoted
      • A song, article, short story, or poem title
      • A coined word or phrase
      • A word being used over-literally or ironically

      Asterisks are Internet punctuation indicating:

      • Emphasis (since many Internet forums don’t facilitate italics)
      • An action someone is supposedly performing (e.g., *offers thumbs up*)
  10. This is a little unrelated — but I was just curious, how many different people (critique partners) read your novel before you arrived at a finish product?

  11. Claudia M. says:

    Thanks K.M. for the clarity! Mystery solved. 🙂

  12. Well, I can’t say I’m surprised to hear you say this. My current story that I’m working on involves characters who are almost all in media res except for my MC. And goodness, is the poor boy giving me trouble… though much of that simply has to do with his personality and the fact that none of the first half of the first book has been plotted yet. Guess I still have lots of work ahead of me, haha.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Main characters, in general, like to give us more trouble than other characters, I find. They’re stubborn that way. But when you consider all the grief we’re trying to put them through, I suppose it makes sense. 😉 Best of luck!

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