Have you ever experienced that heart stopping moment when you realise you have a character who is never happy and moans a lot?
Have you created a character who repeatedly complains at length (be it internally or externally) about the problems facing them, and does nothing significant to address their problems?
For the record, I would rather tackle a rebellious or unruly character than tussle with a whiny character.
In recent years I have heard writing friends admit they have an issue with a Debbie Downer type character. After casting them a worried look, I would tell them everything will work out and when they were not listening whisper to myself ‘this will never happen to me…my characters are always cheery!’
I thought other writers suffered with this issue. This was until some reviewers kindly drew my attention to the whiny main character in my second draft. Gasp, followed by sharp intake of breath.
Whiny characters have been largely unfortunate in life and feel the need to self loathe and lament for a number of pages / chapters.
Readers detest whiny characters. They want a main character to grow and overcome their hardships. Not one who spends six chapters snivelling and curled up in a ball.
When I have not been attending my Whiny Character Support Group Meetings...’my name is Lucy and I have a…..moaning character,’ I have been asking myself the following question – how does one deal with a whiny character?
How do you turn around a character, who made a reviewer write ‘her constant whining did my head in!’ and come back with a transformed character who the reviewer will love? Is this possible?
So, I have been hard at work researching this troubling writer ailment. Here’s what you need to do when dealing with whiny characters:
- Conduct a moan audit. This is one of the best pieces of advice I have found and I squealed with joy when I read about it. Basically you note down how many times they weep and if it’s a regular occurrence you look for other ways they can react to a situation.
- Length of moaning. Look at how long your character whines for. Your character needs to be occasionally whiny. Once they have had their ‘woe is me’ moment they need to get a grip of themselves, move on and start trying to change their situation.
- Action. Your character needs to take action and start looking for solutions to their life issue. Yes they have been dealt some unfair cards in life but moping about isn’t going to solve things.
- Timing of the choice to take action. The character needs to decide to take action to change their situation early on in the book, not after six or seven chapters of gloom. I wish I had read this magical insight before I wrote my second draft.
- POV. The potential for whiny characters is strong when using first person, with this POV as you are placed inside a character’s head and are subject to their mental dialogues and heavily skewed views on the world. This is something I’d not considered. If you are using first person be extra vigilant for character whining!
- Pull your own emotions out of your writing. This was a big one for me. I am not my main character and I am not dealing with some awful crisis. Don’t let your emotions run away with you. *Sigh*
- Being whiny can be infectious. If you are feeling like a Debbie Downer there is a danger your characters will also take on this mindset.
It’s tough out there writers.
So many things to think about when we create our literary masterpieces.