Hiding in Their Shadow

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Someone They Respect

How can you use a role model in your story?

Can you?

Won’t it seem obvious and boring to have your main character constantly looking up to another?

Simple answer? Yes.

Your character is supposed to be ‘cool’ in some way, and if your story is a montage of your main character asking his parents or ‘that wise, old neighbor’, your reader will get tired of this.

So, how do you include a mentor character in your story without that character becoming cliché or seeming like a space filler?

Well, the first thing you need to figure out is why that ‘role model’ or mentor character is even there to begin with. If you’ve created an all-knowing character purely for your MC (Main character) to get answers from, then you have a problem.

For instance, say your MC is a girl named Clare. Now, Clare really admires her grandmother who knows a lot…about EVERYTHING. Thus, every time Clare has a problem, she asks her grandmother about it, and sure enough, her grandmother has an answer to the problem.

This is boring.

BUT with a few tweaks we could make it work.

The first option we have is to change the grandma a bit. What if she wasn’t an expert on EVERYTHING, but instead an expert on one particular subject? Maybe Clare’s grandmother was a former teacher, and because of this she has a good understanding of children, and some of the silly things they do.

Not only is this idea more believable, but it also makes the grandmother feel more human. Nobody knows everything, no matter how old they are. Another option to make the grandmother interesting would be give her flaws herself.

Maybe the grandmother is still recovering from the loss of her husband, and maybe some of the information Clare needs revolves around her grandfather. This situation would create tension and would make a scene between Clare and her grandmother much more climatic.

A general rule when it comes to writing mentors is to remember that they’re human too. Another thing to remember is that your main character needs to be competent to solve problems on their own.

It’s perfectly fine for your character, or say Clare again, to ask her grandmother for help, especially when it’s her only choice. However, that doesn’t mean that every time something goes wrong, Clare picks up a phone and dials her grandmother’s number instead of trying to figure out the problem on her own.

A reader will relate more to a character that has to work for their solutions, so keep this is mind as you decide how much your mentor should know.

And happy writing!


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