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Packing Heat 104: Who's that Guy?

Who's that Guy?

I was watching a movie with someone who turned to me during the last scene and said, "Who's that guy?" about the main character. Holy hell, don't let that happen in your story!

My friend asked on her blog what pulls readers out of stories, and one of the participants mentioned that she loses interest in stories where she keeps getting the characters mixed up. On one hand, it might seem as if naming the characters very distinct and different things would help this issue. But I think the problem is even deeper: that the characters don't have distinct enough personalities to stand out in the readers' mind.

I was working on a story where I described my lead guy as an "everyman," and then I realized I needed more than that to hook anyone's attention. So I retrofit a little part where the love interest spots him being compassionate—putting a spider outside rather than killing it.
“Are you still bummed about that deal-thingie falling through?” Owen wrapped a twinkle light around a thumbtack he’d pushed into his kitchen’s drop-ceiling. It seemed like such an Owen thing to do, I didn’t bother asking why he’d be hanging Christmas decorations in May. “If you really must be so distraught over it, you should probably save the drama for work.
“Right. I’ll shut it off like a faucet when I get on the subway at 5:05.”
“I hope you weren’t out there on the patio looking for somewhere to hang yourself.”
Actually, I’d been relocating a big spider I’d found in my linen closet. “Just getting some air.”
“If you say so.” He eyed me in such a way that I realized he’d probably seen me dancing away from my expatriated eight-legged intruder. What can I say? It was a really, really big spider.

(This short story, Betweentimes, is coming 5/23 to jcpbooks.com)

Your Assignment

Think about your main character. What is their defining characteristic? Make sure they are doing whatever that thing is in the very first scene. And make sure the other characters don't remark on it! Let the reader connect the dots.

Listen here - this week's ep is a compact 11 minutes!

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