Writing Books/Characters


Hello Susan,

I recently finished my first draft of a suspense novel about 2 people being stalked by someone.  As I do my re-read, I'm finding that I've spent a fair bit of time developing the character of the female victim, a fair bit of time on the bad guy, but not a lot of time on my second victim. He just sort of appears and I have a single, relatively short chapter that introduces him to the reader.  

Once the two victims are together, the dialogue is about equal but I don't often go into his thought processes. Does this matter?  Is it possible to have a story with three equally main characters or is it natural for one of them to fall into the background a bit? Would it be advisable to throw a few thoughts into the male victim's head so the reader feels more connected to him or would that be overkill?  How much should I develop his character?

My nom de plume is male but, with the story the way it is right now, I'm wondering if a reader would easily guess that the writer is female.

Thank you for any advice you can provide!


Hello Brenda:

Congratulations on achieving a first draft! That is indeed an accomplishment.

The rule of thumb here is: Make the main character the one who throughout the story changes the most. This usually means emotional growth, e.g., a teenager comes to see herself as a woman instead of a girl; a small, weak boy acts heroically. Due to these changes the character ends up with a different world view.

As the story unfolds, each character will reveal to you their importance in the story. It could be that your male victim just doesn't play a large role in the story - if that is the case, his acts may not be critical enough to require much motivational exploration.

Of course, everything depends on the point of view you have chosen. First person: "I did this, I did that." Second person: "You did this, you did that." Third Person Omniscient POV allows you to play God, get into everyone's head, privy to their thoughts, etc. Or you may choose Third Person Limited, where you are in one character's head, knowing only what she knows, seeing only what she sees, hearing only what she hears. This is the POV most often recommended for emerging authors.

Please don't go out of your way to make the dialogue "equal." For each scene, each character should speak as is necessary, otherwise be quiet. It is not important who has the most words, only that the scene does what it's supposed to do.

A short chapter introducing a character is the worst way to bring him in. Let him appear naturally where he is needed; otherwise, keep him out of the action. It's possible to write about three main characters, but this seldom works: one character will inevitably rise up and take over. 'This is MY story!' It is best that this happens. The reader is best satisfied if there is one character he can attach to. There is no point in "attaching" the reader to a character who has little to do in the story. Concentrate on attaching her to the main character whose story this is.

These days, it matters not whether the reader thinks you are male or female. Readers (and publishers) know that women are fully as capable of writing good fiction as men.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 370 questions.

And good luck with your writing!

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at http://pygmypress.com, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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