Conference Challenge #5 – Introducing your main character

Welcome Wednesday! The summer has wound down and most kids in our area returned to school this past Monday. Not to be outdone, the county where we will be having our Lucky 13 Conference started school a week earlier. Everyone  who remembers not setting a toe in school until after Labor Day raise your hand.


The summers keep getting shorter and shorter.

Today is a special day in our nation, as it is the 50th Anniversary of the landmark civil rights speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



The Mall in nearby Washington, DC is the scene of many speeches and tributes today, which got me to thinking. Yeah, I know the phrase “me thinking” justifiably strikes fear in the hearts of many when it comes to this intrepid blogger. I promise it’s benign and hope it proves to actually be of some help.

How well do you know the main character in your novel or picture book? When I ask myself this question, I honestly get a little  defiant. I know her quite well, thank you very much. After all, I created her!

Oh, really? Then tell me her deepest and darkest secret. One that may never see the light of day – even on the paper you hope to have that novel published on some day.


Author Jennifer McMahon, in her guest article “How to Write a Novel: Advice for New Writers”  on Chuck Sambuchino’s blog, says “One exercise I always do when I’m getting to know a character is ask her to tell me her secrets. Sit down with a pen and paper and start with, “I never told anybody…” and go from there, writing in the voice of your character.”

What a cool idea!

There are lots of ways to flesh out your characters, from Charlotte Dillon’s Character Chart to the Gotham Writers’ Workshop’s Character Questionnaires  (one is from Marcel Proust…yeah, that Proust) to writing a character’s autobiography as suggested by James N. Frey in his amazing HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL. And these are just a few.

So, I’m asking you (and myself) again…How well do you know your main character?


Imagine that the protagonist in your novel is making a speech and you have to give a personal introduction. What would you say? How would you let the audience know the real person that will be standing before them? Write it down, limiting yourself to approximately half a page.


Create two characters who differ in size and show them interacting. (Thank you, Susan Detwiler!)

Remember, you can complete the previous four at any time. Just let us know by leaving a comment in the challenge post saying you have completed that task.

Challenge #1: Two Friends and a Kitchen Table

Challenge #2: Victimize a Villain

Challenge #3: Conflict–Can’t live with it, can’t write without it

Challenge #4: Give yourself a job review

One last tidbit – the deadline for critique submissions is this Saturday, August 31st. Go to Laura’s reminder from yesterday for more details.

Happy writing and illustrating! 🙂

About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
This entry was posted in Conference Information, Conference Tips, Writing & Drawing Exercises. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Conference Challenge #5 – Introducing your main character

  1. Teresa MIS says:

    Finished number 5. Had fun with this one. Struggling with the victim challenge– but will keep at it. Good thing order doesn’t matter with these 🙂

  2. Summer B says:

    Completed. I found that I’m not good at talking about someone who is ‘listening’. Is it weird to be selfconcious about what the character would think if they heard you introduce them?

  3. Yay! Challenge #5: Accomplished

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