Agency Lessons: Who is driving your story?

Agency Lessons is a weekly post that gives authors and readers an inside look into the mind of a literary agent and a peek behind the curtain of how books are made.

I spent the last week cruising through my query box and submissions list. As tends to happen when I read a lot of queries all at once, a few trends popped up. One of those trends was the passive main character and that really surprised me.

I had to sit and think about it. Why am I getting so many stories about characters that aren't actually driving the story? I have a theory.

There is a new trend in books coming out that I am in love with. These are books that are about some of the best supporting characters in literature. Princess Tiger Lily got her own book this year, which I think is fantastic. Also, lots of authors are writing spin-off series or novellas that feature the minor characters that readers fell in love with.

This is great, but not every character deserves their own book. You can only give a character a book if they have a story to tell. That means they have their own goal, conflict, motivation, etc.

I applaud authors looking for the not-so-obvious main character. There are tons of stories in literature and history that would be interesting to read from a new POV. The problem comes when an author selects a main character who doesn't have their own story. That character ends up being only a narrator, merely observing the action while it happens around and to them.

Your main character is responsible for driving the story. Without them, the story doesn't happen.

By all means experiment with form and go for something new. But at the end of the day, you still need a story and a main character making that story happen.