Back with the ‘How I Edit’ series, now with Edit 3: The Main Character. It goes without saying that one of the most essential ingredients to a novel is the main character. They are our view point into your world. They are the one we are closest to. This especially holds true if you’re dealing with first person. The reader is going to be in your main character’s head. So while editing, I dedicate a whole edit just to the protagonist.
This edit focuses on characterization, consistency and story arc. Before even diving into the edit, I map out what I want my character’s arc to be, I.E, where they begin, how their world is thrown of kilter, how they deal with it, and how they end up. In creating this map I can use it as a guide as I edit through the novel.
I also make a list of everything I know about my character: their fears, their hobbies, their dreams, their quirks, their favorite foods etc. For a main character, this should be a pretty hefty list. You might not use everything on it, but little details here and there help to make the MC more authentic.
With the arc and list made, I dive into the writing and focus only on my main character as I read. I make sure their thoughts and actions are in character. I look at how they react to certain situations. I make sure they remain consistent throughout the story. And I also make sure I’m not dumbing them down for the sake of the plot, which is something I could do a whole post on, and probably will at some point. To keep it short for now, you don't want your reader to do this while reading your book:
My current MS is unique in that it’s a sequel. My MC has already been introduced in the previous book and has already begun an arc that must span a whole series. This presents a new set of questions. Does the character have a fresh arc in this story? Do they backtrack rather than moving forward? What is their new internal conflict or are they continuing to get over the same internal conflict from the last book? None of these things are necessarily right or wrong if they make sense in the context of the story. But no one wants to see an MC learn the same things over and over again. They should be constantly growing from book to book.
This is a fun edit for me as I love my characters and I love spending time with them. This is a welcome break after that world building edit. What questions do you ask yourself when writing and editing your MCs? Let me know in the comments!