Thursday, July 24, 2014

Do You Like Isaac?

Isaac loved Shakespeare
There are a few writers' blogs that I follow occasionally, and one of them is "Live, Write, Thrive."  Recently a post there was titled, "Make Me Like Your Protagonist or I'll Stop Reading."  The advice was directed more toward novels, but I had fun applying some of the advice to my history of Isaac and the Populist Movement.

First, the suggestion was that the character has to grow and change, perhaps learn a life lesson by the end of the book, a technique sometimes called a Character Arc.  I'm going to give Isaac points for his constant belief in the importance of learning.  While he did most of his learning from books, he also learned how to work within his community, directing his attention toward helping others as much as he sought to help himself.  At the end of his life, the lesson that he learned was that even an independent, solitary man must sometimes accept help from others.
Catalpa blooms like Isaac's

Second, the character must have a clear goal.  Double points to Isaac on that one.  His personal goal was to make a success of his farm, and he created a farm described as one of the best in the community.  His social goal was to work with his community through the Farmer's Alliance and the People's Party to make better lives for working people, and while he and the People's Party declined at about the same time, they left accomplished goals behind.

Isaac's friend "Doc" Dix
Third, don't make me wait to like your character.  That's a little tricky, since I start the book with Isaac's funeral.  Yet, the friends gathered at his grave are those who cared about him, who knew the good things he had done for the community, and who would miss him and his thoughtfulness.  Readers won't meet Isaac until the next chapter, but they will get to know him in the Preface through the eyes of his friends.
Isaac's Gravestone

Last, make your character sympathetic by showing his passion, needs, and vulnerabilities.  None of you has read the manuscript, but as you follow this blog, I have showed many sides of Isaac, and I hope by now you are invested in his life and find him a sympathetic man.  You cannot answer whether I have done a good job in the manuscript of meeting these suggestions for developing the main character, but from reading the blog, I hope you can answer the question at the top of the blog!  Do You Like Isaac?

Isaac was not a character that I created in a novel.  He was a real man, with his talents and his flaws, his intellect and his idiosyncrasies.  But, in the end, I've enjoyed spending the last few years in his company.  I definitely like Isaac and I hope you do too!

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