Your main character is the platform for the message of your story. Main characters live out the message you aim to speak to your audience. They ultimately embody the realities we one and all can understand.


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So what is it exactly that makes characters like Katniss Everdeen, Sherlock Holmes, or Bilbo Baggins so incredibly unforgettable? What is that underlying key which can make your character just as worthy?

There’s a little something called the “ cause and effect” theory that works out in every unforgettable main character. So what exactly is this theory and how can you too utilize it in your novel?

Your MC experiences “cause and effect” through many avenues, but the most common way they experience this is through unexpected tests of character or through a villain/antagonist.

Looking at the main characters above, think about the outset of their story. Each character’s life was relatively “normal”. Nothing was aggravating the steady day-to-day living (even if that day to day living was a day to day nightmare). Each character also lacked a vital key to human happiness or success.

This is where “the cause” comes into play. Each character soon faced an unexpected challenge or villain (a cause) that changed their life from the inside out.

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Katniss: Prim gets selected for the Hunger Games

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Sherlock: Dr. John Watson moves in, tags along at the next crime scene investigation

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Bilbo: Gandalf volunteers Bilbo to be the team’s burglar

Someone or something forces change upon the average day-to-day of your MC’s life. But this isn’t just any old off-road excursion. It’s a major alteration specific to their circumstances that challenges all they believe and how they think. And most importantly, it forces them to face what they ultimately fear.

So what do they fear?

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Loss of Loved Ones

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Venturing Outside of One’s Comfort Zone

It is at this point exactly where your main character is about to come to life and your reader is about to care about their journey. It is also where your story truly begins.

when your MC comes to terms with this new journey, the next step in the theory comes into play.

The effect:

The effect of their decision regarding the cause will mould who they truly are. Their reactions, their choices regarding this change can bring out the best or the worst in them. Continuing this theory throughout your story, bringing in multiple “causes” will encourage different “effects” from your character, thus building upon the story’s progression. If you have found that your MC already has a strong personality, a resounding image of who they are, then honestly, they will decide on their own what choices they will make. You might find that your MC continues to have a mind of his own, therefore helping the story progression to occur organically.

What if you feel uncertain as to who your character truly is? Do you feel a little foggy when it comes to what his or her reactions would be to such causes? Then check out 5 Ways to Deeply Understand your Characters, after this article.

For now, let’s break apart the effect of our aforementioned MC’s, shall we?

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Katniss: she volunteers to enter the Hunger Games, thus beginning her brave journey to overthrow Snow and his awful dictatorship.

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Sherlock: He grows rather attached to Dr. John Watson, learning from John what it means to have compassion for humanity.

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Bilbo: He obliges Gandalf, thus facing countless tests of courage and fearlessness, including facing a fire-breathing dragon.

These two key words, cause and effect, build the persona of your main character.

Keep the reader caring about your main character by continuously challenging the main character’s attitudes and beliefs. Will their reactions, attitudes, and beliefs remain unwavering in the face of their greatest challenge yet? Or will they cripple under the pressure? Those causes keep your reader wondering, and therefore turning the page. How the effect will uniquely change your main character will make him/her unforgettable to your reader.

So picture your main character and ask yourself: is he facing multiple causes and rendering unexpected or enlightening effects? If so, then he too can become the next legend that leaps from your pages!

Now you have the inside to the “cause and effect” theory, and how it will change your main characters from ordinary to extraordinary. Feel free to comment below on what main characters have stood out to you from the pages of your favorite novel!

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