If he’s mistrustful what does he focus on while he’s walking through the mall? What would an upbeat character notice in that same mall? A sarcastic MC? Show us that—make us see the world through your character’s eyes—throughout the story.
A few thoughts that relate:
- In a series, the MC may not have a character arc that reflects a major change by the end of each story. All the more reason for a laser focus on attitude—that way the MC stays consistent in the readers’ minds throughout the series.
- Some stories have quite a bit of ‘authorial narrative’ mixed in with the MC’s. Harlan Coben comes to mind. In that case, make sure you pick an attitude for the author’s narrative portions, as well as the MC’s. They don’t have to be the same, but the ‘tones’ need to harmonize.
- Advice pundits tell us: “You’re characters should sound like individuals. We should be able to recognize the MCs from the words on the page, with no tags required.” The pundits are really talking about the attitudes of each of your characters.
- An author’s writing style does not equal voice. The way we arrange prose on a page does not equal voice. Voice comes from character.
Are you ready for the test? Get out your WIP and turn to the first page where the MC comes on stage. What attitude is she projecting? How would you rate the attitude strength on a 1-to-5 scale? Can you barely hear it or is it coming in loud and clear? Take another look at my learning curve ditty above . . . which attitude-words on the list are used to tell the story? What score would you give it?
Your MC has something to say, and she very much wants to say it in her own way, so let it rip. Bring out her voice, and not only will your writing improve, you may find yourself enjoying it more.