Leave Whos to the Owls
The sound of an owl hooting is amazing—it’s almost like they’re saying “who.” When it comes to writing, however, who’s can leave you as wide-eyed as an owl.
Who Are You Again?
Critique group tip: If several chapters of a manuscript, whether very rough or highly polished, have been read, the reader should be able to answer “Who is the protagonist” by naming them—without hesitation. If they can’t remember the name or it takes them a while to answer, it’s time to adjust your manuscript. Once the reader has a connection with a book’s character, the name will be etched in their memory.
Writing in First Person
If the protagonist is also the narrator, the task of getting his or her name in the text is a bit more challenging than with third person. Writers using first person are often concerned with the “I…I…I…” syndrome, or removing a bunch of I’s from a paragraph but also end up with a “who” problem. Getting a protagonist’s name in front of the reader is a trickier when the manuscript doesn’t have many secondary characters.
Too Many Characters
Readers, especially readers with the superpower to get you a contract, invest in a book’s characters. If the manuscript has protagonist overload, the “who” factor could exist, especially if characters aren’t distinct or not enough dialogue tags exist.
Because you have spent a lot of time creating your book’s characters, you know them inside and out. Yet, readers won’t have any knowledge of your character beyond the back cover if the book is a standalone or the first in a series. Your job as an author is to give readers substance about your characters so they can grow to like or dislike them. Removing the “who” factor is a good place to start.