One of the most interesting revelations I had in my online paranormal romance class came from not from one unit and its assignment but from two, and the corresponding assignments. Describe hero—describe heroine. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? I’d even written up most of what I knew about Eira already.
The unit for the hero was first—and this one actually came pretty easily. I was going for something unusual, something that would stand out, and then, despite that part not being covered (on either character, oddly enough) trying to figure out what it was that Eira-in-specific saw in him. This, in turn, led to such traits as his dressing in a slightly anachronistic manner and carrying a pocket-watch casing with the operative portion of a multi-function digital watch inside. As far as I was concerned, Gavriel—the name I eventually settled on—was pretty fascinating.
Then, for the next unit, I got to describe Eira from the outside, and almost immediately got stuck. It might be because I was so used to her as a first-person narrator, it might be because this was an external description and Eira is so much more about her internal world than her external features, it might be because Gavriel had to be interesting to her but in her initial design she only needed to interest me. Either way, I looked at my paltry little third-person description, and wondered at the fact that she seemed so dull next to her counterpart. What the heck? This wasn’t going to turn into one of those things where the woman was a cipher with no interesting qualities, was it?
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, though—and I took a little reassurance in the fact that last time, it went in the opposite direction. When I started my Almagest project, it was originally meant to center around an apprentice calligrapher, but by the time I began writing, a character I’d designed simply to be his love interest had pretty much taken over the storyline. It seemed more logical, at least—I had a slightly better idea what I could have Khadijah do, once I figured out how she was tied to the overall plotline, and finding ways to keep my original main character entertained was giving me difficulties.
The secondary characters’ tendency to come out more interesting made sense, though. The only real qualification I have for my main characters is that they be someone I could enjoy being in the head of, and I find that pretty easy. The ones they’re supposed to get along with, though—not only do I have to figure out what about them makes me want to write them, I also need to figure out the reasons why my main characters get along with them, and that means fleshing out their visible qualities a lot more.
Have you ever had this issue?