Category: character development

Write a story where, by the end, it’s hard to tell who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy; Any advice is welcome

We may venture into a little bit of philosophy here, so beware!

Determining Good Verses Bad

The first thing you need to consider is what you actually want out of your story. Does there need to be a good guy and a bad guy? Sometimes there are none. Some of the most interesting characters are the ones whose moral alignment is indeterminable. Such a character will keep your readers guessing.  

If you do want a clear hero and villain, figure out what qualifies as good and bad in your story.

Say your story is about people fighting to stop an old building from being demolished. Maybe this impending demolition is so they can build a new school, which the protesters are selfishly getting in the way of. Or, perhaps the building is a safe house the protesters are trying to protect from a big corporation. Why is the right thing right? Why is the wrong thing wrong?What determines the good from the bad often depends on the point of view from which the story is being told. This, as well as the way it’s portrayed.

That in mind, who is your protagonist? What are they trying to accomplish? What do they have to do to get it? Do they succeed? Who is in their way? What is at stake? What do they lose? How do they interact with others in the story? Why?    

Sometimes your narrator is the villain and their rivalry is the hero. Either way, your narrator needs to believe they are doing the right thing. A well written villain may even be able to convince your readers they are doing the right thing e.g. Light Yagami from Death Note. Stories like this can raise questions of morality.

Good luck!


Hey plotlinehotline, sorry to bother, but I really need help. I’m currently trying to rewite a book I’ve started about a year ago and then left half unfinished. After going over my notes I found back to the story. I like it but it’s kinda boring and it and the main character feel flat and boring. What can I do to make them more interesting. Do you have any tips for me? Thank you very mucg

Dealing With a Boring Character

Friend, I’ll get to your specific questions about your plot and characters in a moment, but first, here’s some general advice about tackling an abandoned draft. Think about why you started writing this story. You might already remember, since you want to rewrite it, but consider this question anyway, in case you want to set it aside again. Did the characters grab you? The setting? The plot? Does this book send a message that’s important to you? Whatever that reason is, write it down. Keep it nearby, so you have it on hand when you feel unsure.

Next, think about why you stopped writing. It might have been a crazy life event–those happen, and if so it’s no fault of your own. But it might have been something deeper. You say the plot and characters feel boring. Did you sense that while you were writing the first time? Or was it something else? Did your plot run into a wall? Did you feel unsure about the voice and tone? Did the characters feel like cardboard cutouts? If you can answer this question now, you can avoid running into the same problem. If your plot didn’t work, try some outlining techniques. If the voice was wrong, try to nail it down. As for the character problems…

You say the main character feels flat. Again, the question here is why. They could be boring because they aren’t well developed. How much do you know about this character’s history? How alive do they feel to you? Would you want to be friends with this character, or at least find them interesting if you met them in real life? It may be that you need to sit down and write out some character sheets for your protagonist. Or you could try writing some short stories about them, to flesh them out without the pressure of writing an entire novel.

The main character could be boring in terms of the plot. Are they a passive protagonist, reacting instead of acting? Do they lack a driving motivation? If so, go back and figure out how to make them an actor. What do they want more than anything? Figure out how they can get it. What can’t they bear to lose? Take it away from them.  What’s the worst thing they can imagine? Make it happen to them and see what they do. None of these things have to be part of your story, but they can help you figure out what your story is.

Or the main character could be boring compared to other characters. Do you like other characters better than your protagonist? If so, why? Are they more motivated? Funnier? Charming? Do they drive the plot instead of the protagonist? If the answer to these questions is yes, then take a step back and ask why your protagonist is the main character. What makes them important enough to be the center of your book? Why are they more important than this other character you like more? Bring that reason into the story. Or maybe you need to refocus the book around that other character.

Finally, you say your story overall is boring. This could be the main character’s fault. They’re the focus, after all, and if you don’t like them, then the rest of the story won’t work either. As you improve your main character, your story improves with them. And if you’re writing about the wrong main character altogether, then of course the story feels boring.

However, there could be problems with the story beyond the protagonist. You might mean that your plot meanders. Break your story down by scene and list what happens in each. Is there a clear forward momentum? Does each scene do more than one thing? If not, how can you fix this? Even a slice of life story has an engine  hidden somewhere.

Hopefully those get you thinking, friend. One final note: this could just be a crisis of confidence. If none of these questions help spark your thoughts, ask someone else to take a look at your draft. Showing unfinished works to other people can be scary, but sometimes all it takes is one person who says, “I really like this!” to get you started again.


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NaNoWriMo New Character GeneratorWant to add a little extra…

NaNoWriMo New Character Generator

Want to add a little extra oomph into your story? Or need someone to help get your main character out of a bind? Use your name and birthday to find out what new character you should introduce into your current work in progress!

And don’t forget to update your Camp NaNoWriMo projects—it’s not to late to start!

Follow @nanowrimo and @nanowordsprints on Twitter for more inspiration, and tune in to the Virtual Write-Ins on Youtube.

—Claire Kann hails from the glorious Bay Area where the weather…

Claire Kann hails from the glorious Bay Area where the weather is regrettably not nearly as temperate as it used to be. Let’s Talk About Love is her debut YA contemporary novel, published in 2018 with Swoon Reads/Macmillan. A sucker for instant gratification, she also posts new stories regularly to Wattpad, including the two Watty Award-winning stories: The Scavenger Hunt and #Fatgirl Magic.

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Text added over original image by Gabriel Jimenez on Unsplash.

prompt 991

Answer the following questions and then write about the creature that emerge from that exercise.

Forget Disney. You are making a mermaid or a siren. What type of mermaid is it? Are they pretty? Are they weird? How big are they? What color/s? Do they speak.

Sirens: what does their song sound like? What do they say? How do they capture you? What do they do once they capture you? Can they communicate with humans?

Let yourself go. Have fun!

Hi! Can you please help me with my story? So I’m writing about an antagonist and she’s a hired killer. One night, someone saw her doing her job. She saw the guy and shot him in his back, almost near his heart. But in this story, I kind of put an advanced technology here. So the guy got in the hospital, went in a coma but soon woke up from it, and here’s the thing. The bullet – when it hit someone, it disintegrates and disappears but it leaves a hole.

Pt. 2 This is the
continuation. So the question is: how can the doctors say that he had a hole,
most probably from a bullet (in their pov), but can’t say it came from it
because they have no evidence? Another one. It’s about the antagonist that is a
hired killer. I can’t think of any way why she became one. Will you please help

Hello, hello! Wow, good questions! I will be honest,
I am not a healthcare professional, but I will give this my best go. I used the
blog @scriptmedic, who is a professional and has written numerous posts on a
wide range of medical mishaps for research, and I highly suggest you check it out! Here we go!


Warning! Discussion of weapons, bullets, injuries, and antagonists ahead!

Firstly, advanced tech aside, a bullet wound is a bullet
wound. In the ER, a trained doctor will
be able to tell you what caused the damage. A bullet entering the body creates
a path which a knife, or any other kind of blade cannot create. A knife pierces
with a slash path and bleeds like crazy. When a bullet penetrates, it displaces
the tissue surrounding the path, creating both a permanent wound and a
temporary stretch cavity. This means the tissue expands then retracts back down
to a bullet sized trauma entry and path.The bigger the bullet, the bigger the hole; but  this raises the probability of death, which for our patient, we don’t want.

Now in regards to your disintegrating bullet, first of all
what a brilliant idea, and second I am applying @scriptmedic’s rule of, “You
break it, you bought it”. Meaning, since you are the creator and it isn’t exactly
common knowledge around disintegrating ammo, some elements will either be up to
you to decide or logically figure out. Now, we know that our patient only has
one entry hole since the bullet disintegrates after impact and we know that
there is no physical evidence of the bullet. But there are a few things that
need to be kept in mind. 1) A medical team’s primary concern is that the
patient does not die, 2) an experienced trauma doctor can determine it’s a
bullet wound, and 3) forensics are sometimes able to pick up residue from a
gunshot from the clothing a person was wearing. 

My suggestion is that you do a bit of research on bullets,
especially the frangible bullets (“disintegrating” bullets) that are used by
the military for training and close proximity environments. The difference between your idea and frangible bullets is that frangible bullets are designed to not ricochet after hitting, say a tank, during a training session. They are designed to minimize damage and the danger level while working in either close proximity to other people or during training sessions. At close range, they probably are lethal, but these bullets do not disappear, only fracture upon impact to minimize damage. You may have to be
a little creative and create something that completely disintegrates and does not create the same “clean
cut” that the average bullet would. Bullets can change direction as they hit
, but the amount and type of damage they are able to create is again
limited to a bullet.

Antagonist Time!


While past hurt or tragedy does not justify
a character’s future actions, it does offer an explanation – a very good
explanation. As a writing friend put it, “personal motivation is always the
strongest factor, either for revenge or self-reward”, to which I will add even
if a person has nothing in the world they care to keep or protect, they are
still fighting for themselves and what they think they deserve. So, why did she
become a hired killer? My assumption is that at some point she realized A) she
had the skill-level and knowledge, B) she didn’t care or her conscience was
numb to murder, and C) she needed the money that badly. Of course, you could explore the possibility of traumatic
childhood or unfortunate circumstances that forced her need to survive, but the
three points I just named are things you should consider during your creative
process. I don’t know your character, but you could also explore her perspective
on things. For example, instead of a bad past, her thinking could be backwards
and she wholeheartedly believes that she is the hero and is taking out the bad
guys. It is a common viewpoint of a villain, but for characters like D.C.’s
Oliver Queen a.k.a Green Arrow, he is portrayed as the hero even though he is
murdering the bad guys to protect Star City. But even with Oliver, his experiences
and desperate fight for survival on a deserted island facing assassins, gives
him his edge to fight. I suggest you really get into her skin and figure out
how she feels about being a hired killer. Does she feel badly? Maybe she isn’t completely
cold and just had an unfortunate experience or a bad past? Or if she views our
patient as the bad guy, maybe she believes she is the hero? Does she enjoy her
job? Maybe she really is a dark antagonist?

Why your character is the way she is, is up to you. You are
the author, and you get to decide. As to how your patient survives and stumps
the doctors, its advanced technology, something you created, so bend the rules
a little! Sometimes TV and book doctors really don’t know because its plot convenient.
I hope I was able to lend a helping hand and point you down the right rabbit

As always,

Happy Writing!


prompt 987

No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.

                                                           —Abraham Lincoln

Hello! I have a question. So I have a story with 3 lead characters on a journey. One is a bodyguard with air magic, one is sort of the brains of the operation, and the last one is a mute toddler with powers of her own. Her character contributes quite a bit as far as plot goes, but as for her participation in the group I’m kind of at a loss. I was wondering, is there a way to get her a bit more involved with the others? Are there any resources you would recommend looking into?



Infants, toddlers, and children are fantastic opportunities for humor, symbolism, and character development for the older characters. Toddlers are rambunctious little scamps who are at the cusp of realizing that they are independent beings. They often oscillate between wanting freedom and wanting to rely on their caregivers. So, unless your toddler is completely self-reliant (which, realistically, they are not), she will always be involved with the other characters. 

Toddler-hood tends to span between the ages of 12 and 36 months. There are a set of milestones [1,2,3] that children are typically expected to reach within this time period, but those goals are not always met. The growth and personality of a toddler will change multiple times between the ages of 12 and 36 months, and so will her cognitive, physical, social, and motor skills. Depending on the age range, your older characters could be dealing with a completely helpless child, or one who is able to run around and climb all of the dangerous objects. The toddler will require a lot of care and supervision regardless of her age, but the types of supervision will be different throughout her growth and development. 

Having a mute toddler is an entirely different struggle. Toldder-hood is when children start being able to speak and communicate. Not being able to speak will lead to a lot of frustration on the toddler’s part. The parents of children who cannot speak for one reason or another often choose to teach their children sign language. This has been said to reduce frustration [1,2], although are very few formally reported sources. If your toddler is unable to communicate with her caretakers, this will be the cause of many tantrums. Since your toddlers also possesses powers, those tantrums could turn deadly in a moment’s time. 

At the bare minimum, the older characters will need to help feed her, dress her, make sure she does not seriously injure herself, and provide social interaction. The level of interaction the older characters have with the toddler is completely up to you. The best way for the characters to interact with the toddler is by acting as her caretakers and guiding her through this frustrating period of her life. 

xx Sarah

prompt 933

Give your character a physical gesture, a “tell,” that reveals something important about them. Why do they have this particular habit? Under what circumstances are they likely to do it?

(subplot 1/2) I’m stuck on one major subplot of my project I’m working on; have you ever heard of the Sentinel & Guide trope? Well I decided to rework it around my universe and I did it by having this group of empaths. Basically they need a partner to help them fight in battle. The Empath can do both defensive and offensive attacks, but their partner can do mostly offensive, but they don’t have powers like their Empath partner yet they’re still strong enough to take on a battle.

(subplot 2/2) With the S/G trope the Sentinel is the one who has the advanced senses and the Guide is just there to help them come back down, so they don’t do much- but I want to expand on my version but I don’t know how. The Empath is my version of the Sentinel but I don’t know what to turn my Guide into. I’m sorry, I read fanfic alot but this idea popped up in my head and I didn’t know who to ask, so if you can’t help that’s totally fine.

I must admit, I had to look up the Sentinel & Guide trope, but I think I know some ways to help you out. 

They way that I understood the Guide is that they are someone who has to “ground” the Sentinel. You say your Sentinel is an Empath, so how does being an Empath require someone to bring them back to reality? Are your characters just partners in battle, or is there any room for personal relationship in your story? A bad example of what I’m thinking of is L and Watari from Death Note. On one side you have a person who has near-magic levels of intelligence and analysis skills, and on the other you have his handler, who is somewhat of a fatherly figure and acts as a liason to deliver information to the “Sentinel” (I remember something about Watari being able to calm L down when he gets riled up, but I may be misremebering).  

Your Sentinel is an Empath, but your Guide can be a handler, or assistant, emissary, intermediary– the possibilities are endless. Even just using a thesaurus may give you inspiration if you’re looking to change the title. The direct opposite of an empath is a narcissist, although that word generally has negative connotations/is not exactly a superpower. Since empathy is the ability to share and understand feelings, the opposite would be one who has no ability to connect emotionally to others. If the Empath can’t stop themself from augmenting and aprehending the emotions of others, how does the Guide help to protect the rest of the team.

Who is the main character in this story? If you decide to focus on the Guide, I see no reason as to why they can’t have their own development outside of the Sentinel. If the Guides are capable of some supernatural ability, how does being a Guide affect their usage? There are a lot of directions in which you can go that allow the Guide to be so much more than ‘just’ a Guide. Just as a general warning, make sure your characters (and powers) have balanced strengths and weaknesses. That alone may prevent the Guide from being ‘just a Guide.’

I don’t want to force feed you ideas, but some plot points could be:

  • Guide becoming fed up with their position
    • Possibly want better assignment/different Sentinel
    • Guide not fully understanding why they have the role
      • Why Sentinels exist and the reason Guides are needed
  • Sentinel turning against Guide in moment of confusion
    • How Guide reacts to this (emotionally, physically…)
  • Guide feeling inadequate becaues of Sentinel
    • Guide finding their own self satisfaction/self worth
  • Guide dealing with the downside of their own powers

xx Sarah