So when I'm trying to write backstories for all of my main chars and side chars I can get the general idea on how I want them to act what they have been through ETC. But when I try to write about my main hero/protagonist I draw a blank other then the main power he has... So should I just not make this hero/protagonist the main person the story follows or try to think harder?

2 Answers 2


Here are some things you might think about, related to the character's power:

  • How did the character come to have the power?
  • How did the character discover having the power?
  • How did the character learn to control the power?
  • What mistakes did the character make while learning to use the power? Who was hurt by those mistakes?
  • What does the character not yet know about the power?
  • Who else has the power?
  • Who helped the character learn about the power and how to use it?
  • What people mattered most to the character prior to this story?
  • How did people react to the character having or using the power?
  • What conflicts arose from the character's use of the power?
  • What does the character want in life?
  • How does having the power help with that? How does it hinder?
  • Finish this sentence about the character's attitude: This character is the kind of person who goes through life ...
  • How does having the power affect that attitude?
  • Who benefits from the way the character uses the power?
  • Who is hurt by the way the character uses the power?
  • These are some good tips on character development but my main problem with my hero/protagonist is I can't think of what kind of a person he would be before he realized he had this power. So I guess I asked the wrong question. What I was trying to ask is this, if I can't really think of what my main character's baxkstory, attitude, ETC. but can think of a main/side char then should I try making the main/side char the hero/protagonist and get rid of the other?
    – Alex
    Jul 11, 2015 at 23:09
  • Maybe. Maybe not. There's a very good chance that you will discover the main character's backstory as you write. Jul 11, 2015 at 23:14
  • 1
    Would it be a good idea to try to write a scene in the hero/protagonist point a view and then try to do the same with the main/side character's point of view?
    – Alex
    Jul 11, 2015 at 23:19
  • Yes, that's a great idea. It doesn't have to be a scene that will end up in the book. Just a scene, or even a short story, that gets the character interacting with some setting and some characters, dealing with some conflict or other problem. Jul 12, 2015 at 1:16

Do not try to think harder. It will just hurt. :) Instead, think different.

Consider the Challenge of Describing a Real Person

Have you ever tried to think about a real person and tried to describe her without thinking about what the person does? Oh, sure you can probably describe what the person looks like but then after that, what happens? Without explaining what the person does you probably have nothing more to say.

The Root Problem

That's the difficulty you are coming up against with writing.

You are attempting to explain a character who is not doing anything.

Imagine describing any real person that way. It is almost impossible.

Most Writing Difficulties Stem From One Thing

What is that one thing?

A lack of knowing the specifics that you want to write.

Many writers try to tell the story of the story that they want to tell, but have difficulty when they attempt to simply write the story. (Yes, that was meant to be a somewhat circular sentence.)

Why does this difficulty occur? Most often it occurs because the writer forgets :

The main reason to write a story is to show a character in action.

Show Your Character In Action (Doing Something)

In Real Life, when we see a person we cannot hear his thoughts (thank goodness) and so we determine who the person is by what he does. We interpret the person's actions and decide who the person is. Yes, this leads to false impressions and problems, but it is real life.

Authors often forget this and attempt to tell a bunch of backstory which the reader couldn't ever know and wouldn't ever know and doesn't really care about. Instead, the reader wants to see your character do something.

An Exercise Which Will Work If You Really Do It

Now, consider your character. It sounds as if the character has some type of super power. How about writing an actual scene where the super power is not explained at all, but instead shown. Your readers are smart enough to read so when they see her leaping a building in a single bound they will understand that she has a super jumping power.

Add Heaps of Conflict

However, just showing your character leaping a building won't reveal much about her character so you'll need some kind of conflict to do that. Decide ahead of time what the conflict will be and write. If the conflict is only one where super strength is required then it will feel like a melodramatic story. However, if you add human emotion pushed up against a physical problem, such as the super hero trying to keep an evil robot from killing an office full of people which also has the super hero's love interest, then you'll have something far more going on. But, the most important thing is :

Show a scene full of action going on and don't just have characters sitting around trying to be described.

Good luck and if you liked this I have a lot more in my book, Fiction Writing Gems - amazon link

  • 1
    Wow thanks saberwriter and dale hartley Emery. I think you both just pulled me out of my root! I can finally continue with my story :)
    – Alex
    Jul 11, 2015 at 23:28

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