Every character is their own protagonist – the key to a textured, 3D fictional world

Set your sub characters free
Set your sub characters free

When writing a novel, it’s easy to fall into the habit of considering each scene from the point of view of the protagonist, not least because they are often the Point of View character.

If you’re working hard, you’ve probably looked into your protagonist’s history, their childhood, their motivations, their flaws, their idiosyncracies, their desires – which consists of both their want and their need – and much more.

In short, you know your protagonist in detail.

But of you want you fictional world to feel real, you need to consider all of those things for all the other players as well.

Okay, okay, perhaps not all of those things, and perhaps not in quite so much depth.

But it’s good idea to walk through the entire novel from the point of view of each of your major characters. Start before the novel starts – what was on their mind before their inciting incident? Nobody is just sitting around waiting to be sucked into someone else’s story.

Then, for each scene they appear in, think about what happened to them immediately before. Did they have an argument with someone? So are they distracted? Or did they just lose a poker game, so are they bitter? Or did they just walk out of a relaxation retreat? So perhaps they are spaced out and generous.

By getting into the supporting character’s shoes, they will cease to be plot devices and start to take on lives of their own – adding new twists and directions to your novel, and perhaps even hijacking it to their own ends.

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