The day I listened to the protagonist

A funny thing happened

Character 2

The other day I was looking over the topics of today’s post. I always keep a number of items on hand and I know all I have to do is pick one. But something happened the other day that I would like to share.

As some of you may know I have been struggling with my second novel. For the longest time nothing seemed to work.

It wasn’t the storyline. I can only write what I want to read and this particular story was exciting to me.

So what was the problem? Why was this so hard?


It was all so easy

When I wrote my first novel I wrote it in first person. The unreliable narrator as we like to call them. Looking back I could have written it in third person and nothing would have been lost. But I purposely keyed on one person.

The weakest in fact and it worked.

But when I decided on novel number two I was determined to do it in third person. This would be a good experience for me, I convinced myself. It would broaden my scope and display a well-rounded writer.

But there was one problem: I made it all about me. Not once did I listen to the story or the characters.


My biggest mistake

In these last couple of months my focus was on finding ways to make myself better. By moving from first to third I might impress the agents, the editors or a publisher.

By now you can see where this is going.


The author’s greatest gift is listening


Novel number two centers on a guy who loves the spotlight. In a nutshell he’s an egomaniac who will crash and burn and slowly pick himself up.

Last week out of frustration I gave in and wrote a scene in first person. I didn’t plan on keeping it. To be honest I had no idea what I was going to do but by the end of the morning I had over 2000 words all in his voice.

What the hell?

Suddenly it no longer felt like a job. I was actually having fun.

So what does all this mean? I haven’t a clue.

On one hand maybe I can only write in first person but on the other maybe I’m following what the story dictates. What he dictates.

What I do know is this: A writer needs to listen to their characters. The stories we write are not about us, they are about people and places and things and for reasons unknown they chose us to tell them.


It took me a while.

My egomaniac protagonist pushed away the third person version that I was trying to tell. No matter how many times I tried to gift wrap it he saw through it and stomped it like a bug.

So now I’m knee deep in his voice. He is telling me where this story will travel and surprisingly he has opened up and allowed me to see his world.

Doing it my way was a mistake I hope I never make again. Check that: Will Never Make Again.

Like I’ve always said: Characters come to us so it only makes sense that we listen and write their adventures their way.  

Characters 1


26 thoughts on “The day I listened to the protagonist

  1. My second novel was so easy to write because I already knew the characters. They wrote the story for me and always in their own voice.
    But when I wrote my next story, it was sooo hard, taking me the entire novel to hear them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been having the same issue, but I’ve left my writing alone for a bit. I need to leave it, for it to settle in, for the characters to evolve a little in my mind before I continue on. This is a great lesson, we need to let the characters come to us how they come out, not how we want them to.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You might be like me where you’re using the wrong voice. Maybe your characters want first instead of third or the other way around. Either way you’re doing the right thing by stepping back and allowing them to grow.


  4. This was an interesting read, Bryan. I find writing the most difficult when it includes a historical event which you have to describe completely accurately. The research and need to be correct can take away the emotion and excitement of the writing. I have to go back later and include these aspects.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree. For me this is where the first draft skips over a lot of the details and keys on the emotions of the story. As you mentioned, the last thing we need to is be robbed of the emotion of our writing. That’s what it’s all about.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s