Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Are You the Main Character, or Are You Along For the Ride?

I was plowing through my TBR writing links the other day when I came across this post by Randy Ingermanson .

Your reader is reading your fiction because you provide him or her with a powerful emotional experience. If you’re writing a romance, you must create in your reader the illusion that she is falling in love herself. If you’re writing a thriller, you must create in your reader the illusion that he is in mortal danger and has only the tiniest chance of saving his life (and all of humanity). If you’re writing a fantasy, you must create in your reader the illusion that she is actually in another world where all is different and wonderful and magical. And so on for all the other genres. 

 This isn’t the first time I’ve come across the theory that you become the main character when you read a story. Perhaps it's just me, but I never think of myself in that way. I may be right there alongside the main character, perhaps sitting in a comfy armchair inside his/her head, but I never feel as though I’m them. I may be able to relate to what they're going through. I might be able to imagine how I would feel if I were in the same situation, but I never feel like I’m falling in love, or I'm about to die. My job is to root for the character and hope everything turns out okay by the end.

For me, reading is like going to a movie. I live vicariously through the actors. Heck, I might even wish I were them for a little while, but I never think I am them. Since movie actors/story characters rarely do what I would have done in the same situation, there's little chance I could convince myself that we're the same person.

Admittedly, most of the articles I’ve read on the subject seem to match with the way I think, but I’m wondering about the rest of you.

Do you become the character, or are you just along for the ride?  Let me know.



But that's not all!

As a bonus feature, today I'm excited to reveal the cover for The Undead Road, an upcoming book by David Powers King scheduled for release in January.

And there's also a contest!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Title: The Undead Road: My Zombie Summer: Part 1
Publisher: CreateSpace / Dashboard Books
Ebook Release: January 1st, 2016
Paperback: January 26th, 2016
Cover by Steven Novak


Nothing brings the family together like a zombie apocalypse …

Fifteen-year-old Jeremy Barnes would rather watch a zombie movie than shoot a real one, but he has no choice if his family wants to survive the end of the world. Their plan? Drive across the infected United States to a cabin in the Colorado Rockies without a scratch, but their trip takes a complicated detour in the middle of Nebraska when they find Kaylynn, a girl who can handle a baseball bat better than Jeremy can hold a .45 Berretta. And when they stumble into a sanctuary, Jeremy soon learns that Kaylynn is stronger than she looks—a deadly secret lies inside her.

After the radio picks up a distress call from Kansas City about a possible cure, Jeremy’s parents go with a team to investigate. They never return. The only way to find their parents is for Jeremy and his sister Jewel to rely on a dangerous girl who might just turn on them at any moment.

Contest Details:

A while ago, David invited the blogosphere to let him turn one unfortunate lucky contestant into a zombie for The Undead Road. The winner was Ilima Todd, who is now the awesome author of Remake. The next installment of My Zombie Summer is underway, and David wants to do this contest again. Want to be in a zombie book? Not only is this your chance, but it is your choice!

Between now and next Wednesday, send an email to dpowersking [at] gmail [dot] com, with the subject line: Zombify Me! Contest. In your email, David wants you to tell him three things:

1: The name you will be identified as (example: your first name).
2: A description of yourself—the more detailed you are, the better.
3: How would you like the survivors to put you out of your misery?

Four casualties contestants will be chosen on Wednesday, November 25th. The most inventive or interesting entry will be zombified! The other three who are unlucky fortunate enough to survive will be given special honors. Winners will be announced on December 2nd on David’s blog.

Prizes? The winner will be zombified in the pages of My Zombie Summer: Part Two, receive a signed proof of the novel (when it’s ready), and a $20 Barnes and Noble gift card. The runner ups will receive a free ebook of The Undead Road for their Kindle (other platforms TBA).

Thank you for participating, and good luck!

About the Author:

David Powers King was born in beautiful downtown Burbank, California where his love for film inspired him to be a writer. He is the co-author of the YA fantasy novel WOVEN, published by Scholastic. An avid fan of science fiction and fantasy, David also has a soft spot for zombies and the paranormal. He currently lives deep in the mountain West with his wife and three children.


  1. I'm along for the ride. I think if I actually considered myself the main character, I'd wonder about my mental health. But I do get submerged, as if I'm in that world. Maybe that's what he meant.

  2. Congratulations, David!
    I feel the same way. It's like watching a movie. I don't feel like I'm the main character. I don't even feel that way when I write!

  3. My husband tells me that's how people read too. Not me. I'm watching the movie unfold in front of me. Unless I'm writing it. Then I'm living it. BUT my point is, I don't think writers are quite that way.

  4. Hmm. I don't think I've ever thought of myself as the MC. But when something is written in first person, I do think I see what they see and feel what they feel. Still, I don't *become* them. Weird because I've never really thought about it, about inhabiting a world versus a particular character. I'll have to pay more attention to the next book I read and see.

  5. I just read my first zombie book, by Heather Graham, her Krewe of Hunters series. Was a lot better than I thought it would be. This one, too, sounds good.

  6. Lisa Cron's Wired for Story addresses that phenomena using science and psychology and teaches writers how to use it to craft their story. It's an awesome book and it explains how readers interact with stories much better than I can ;)

  7. Maybe Randy's theory isn't as literal as it seems. I figure he just means that it's like you have to think your reader will become your main character, rather than that they will actually think that way. If a reader does think that, as they read, they'd need to see a shrink, so that's probably not what he means.

    Naturally, we're going along for the ride. I always feel like I'm riding on the shoulder of the main character and have a chord plugged into their brain so I can hear their stream-of-consciousness thoughts as they are thought, as well as experience everything they experience right along with them. That's why fiction is the most unique medium of storytelling. Knowing they're thoughts, too, makes it the most intimate way to share an experience.

  8. I'm a big fan of Randy Ingermanson. His Snowflake Method was one of the first story structure systems I ran across, and to this day, it is the one that makes the most sense to me.

    Although the quote doesn't leave much room for interpretation ("you must create in your reader the illusion that..."), I believe Randy is really talking about full story immersion. I think of full story immersion as those times when the hours fly by and the "real world" melts away while I'm reading. I literally squirm in my seat as I follow the story and have no awareness of the many pages I'm turning.

    But I never feel like I *am* the POV character. I'm there in the scene. I'm seeing the action. I've got a direct line to the POV character's experience. The more real that experience feels, the more immersed I am in the story and the better I like it. A well-written book is even better than a movie, IMO.

  9. A really good book can draw me in so that I feel what the main character feels, but yes, I'm along for the ride. However -- the characters in my own writing? I sometimes act out those parts in my head to get them right, so I guess in a way I become them for awhile.