Thursday, June 26, 2014

Guest Post by Anna Staniszewski!

I'm super excited to welcome Anna Staniszewski back to the blog to celebrate her new book THE PRANK LIST (available from Sourcebooks July 1)!

Anna has once again put together a wonderful guest post. Take it away, Anna!

Keeping Your Protagonists Distinct

 The great thing about writing multiple series is that you get to explore different main characters’ stories. The bad thing about writing multiple series is that sometimes you wind up having to jump back and forth between projects, meaning that the protagonists’ voices can get a little muddled. Here are a few tricks I use to keep my characters distinct from one another:

1. Give characters unique voices and quirks. I try to give my protagonists specific ways of speaking, unusual habits, etc. that are integral to their characters. Jenny from my UnFairy Tale Life series, for example, is a total go-getter whereas Rachel from the Dirt Diary series is much more reserved and cautious. Both characters have wacky senses of humor, but they come across in different ways.

2. Dig into your characters’ motivations. If you know what’s driving your characters, then it will be easier to keep their stories distinct. If both of your characters want to be accepted, for example, then your stories might feel too similar.

3. Make your characters’ actions/reactions unique. If you locked two of your main characters in the same room, they should be drawn to different elements of the room and use different tactics to try to escape. If their actions/reaction are too similar, that’s a sign that you have more work to do.

4. Don’t make your characters too much like you. It’s inevitable that your characters will be like you in some ways, but make sure that different characters are reflecting different elements of your personality. Jenny, for example, is the kind of girl I wish I could have been in middle school whereas Rachel is an exaggeration of the insecure person I was back then.

5. Create an unexpected supporting cast. Your secondary characters should also be distinct in each book so that they can bring out interesting and unique elements in your protagonist. Filling your story with a variety of minor characters will also help ensure that your stories don’t feel repetitive.

Still not sure if your characters are distinct enough? Try putting them in a scene together! I did this with Jenny and Rachel in order to make sure that I hadn’t accidentally recycled a character. I purposely wrote a scene without any dialogue tags so that it forced the two characters’ voices to be identifiable on their own, and I made sure that the girls’ actions, motivations, and attitudes were completely different.

How do you keep your protagonists distinct from one another?

About Anna:

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. Currently, she lives outside Boston with her husband and their crazy dog. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series and the Dirt Diary series. Her newest book, The Prank List, releases on July 1st from Sourcebooks. You can visit Anna at

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