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Posted October 19, 2011





What's the first thing that comes to mind? If you said Jaws, you nailed it. If not, well then, you're too young or fragile to have seen the movie.

What about "Super-cali-fragilistic…."

You probably caught that one after "Super-cal…."

With music/voice the character of a story pops onto a stage.

And if a movie is named after a shark, then yes, the shark is the main character, just as Mary Poppins is the main character of her movie.

Additional characters are there to interact and help the protagonist move the story forward.

And yes, your story needs other characters but your main character must take center stage most of the time. In Jaws, the shark wasn't in every scene, but the thought of its presence was in the minds of all and it felt like he was in every scene.


Chief Brody is protagonist--shark antagonist! Remember the bad guy is always antagonizing.

So how do you keep your main character hogging the stage? After that last blog about me hiding at the top of the bleachers-- I'll share another embarrassing story.

Once upon a time, I was with my children on a cruise in the Bahamas. We'd skipped off the cruise ship and strolled into town. Girls being girls, my kids wanted to have some heavy duty Bahamian artwork design crafted into their hair.

Later--hot, weary, and short on pocket-change after the hair braiding had set me back--I heard a guy's voice from a speaker system. Around the next palm tree, there he was, microphone in hand, announcing a…pig calling contest.


Right down my hog-pen alley!

The prize was a round of drinks for the winner and his/her family or friends. It was so tempting--those real coconuts filled with pineapple, papaya, and coconut juice with dainty mini-umbrellas hanging off the side.

Being from the South and having spent a lot of time on my grandfather's cattle and hog farm as well as on my own farm where I am a renowned canvas back duck whisperer and have my fish trained to come to the end of the pond with a whistle to be fed, I smiled and winked at my girls.

I have this contest whipped. Mama's got-er in the bag, babes!

Of course the girls began to fidget. Digging the toe of their shoes in the sand they sighed and nervously twirled dreadlocks while squinching their eyes at the sun.

There were several takers for the contest. Soon to be exposed as rank beginner pig callers. Heh-heh.


I just knew my name was on that coconut with the chartreuse mini-umbrella that matched my flippy-floppies. However, to my chagrin, there was one last contestant who grabbed the mike. Astounded, I realized he sounded like a Northerner who'd maybe visited a Southern double-first-cousin-twice-removed on his daddy's side, who knew his way around a hog pen. Sounding out the perfect hawg call, the audience clapped and cheered, finally dying down when I, a female, raised my hand for a try.

Immediately, my children had that deer-in-the-head-lights look. I could see them eye-balling each other with thoughts that conveyed, "What's Mom going to do to embarrass us now and is that palm tree big enough for both of us to hide behind. RUN!"

I had to think fast to take center stage. Swallowing hard, I knew I needed that wet drink to slake a dry thirst. By the time my hands had wrapped around the microphone, I'd decided on a plan of action. IMPROVISATION. Clearing my voice of all frogs, what came out was a cross between a cow-hog call that sounded something like this:


I figured no one from a hog farm or the South was there who might raise an objection to my improv. The host of the contest immediately awarded me first prize when shouts, hand clapping, and thumb and index finger lip whistles sounded. And, my children were saved from any further humiliation because I'd refrained from emitting various snorts and squeals for effect. The girls and I received coconut drinks along with mini-umbrella souvenirs which revived us enough to find our way back to the mother-ship. The End


1) Have your protagonist want or need something-to the point he'll/she'll go to any length--well almost any length without snorting and pig squealing--to get it

2) Have your protagonist HOG center stage

3) Have your character improvise when needed

4) Don't baby your characters. No audience wants to be cheated. Throw them under the bus so your audience can cheer them on when against all odds, they survive to call hogs another day.

5) Think seriously about taking hog-calling lessons so you will be prepared when writing to improvise in most any situation that arises to effectively show your character performing an act to be believable.

6) No matter how thirsty you are, never, ever, under any circumstances, let your mother get her hands on a microphone

Comments anyone?

If you would like to comment or have questions about this article, email me vmoss@livingwaterfiction.com

I like your takeaways. Thank you. Have you ever been to the National Hollerin' Contest in Spivey's Corner, NC? Used to love going there when I lived in Wilmington. ~Mary Janson Ingmire

Mary, I chuckled when I read this! And no, I didn't even know there was a National Hollerin' Contest in Spivey's Corner -- there has to be a good story waiting for me there -- I must check it out!

I have known hundreds of gifted writers from Florida to British Columbia, but never in my life have I read religiously an author writing in such a short, easy-to-read style as you do. So many of your stories consist largely of factual reporting, anchored by a highly creative imagination with a patina of fictionalization and your ability to pen feelings rather than words. Surely you are too young to have invented words, but they all seem to fit in your pen, ready to make me smile or frown. Laughter! Yes, that's it! Never have I read a Moss piece without laughing and afterwards find myself wondering what I laughed at. It's those "strange" words again. Anyone who uses the word WOOT just has to be a hoot. (I wonder if this is an adverb, adjective, or verb, but I don't think it really matters.) ---Jack Koblas

Jack, you're kind and soooo generous with words. Thanks for the compliments -- much cherished from a famous author as yourself. But I didn't invent "woot," just borrowed it. And stop by and feel free to comment any time. Glad I made you laugh!

You are a hoot! You keep me laughing although your girls remind me of my children who still raise their eyebrows, and are always skeptical what might come from my mouth or maybe my pen. Keep writing. At least, it isn't boring. ~ Irmgard Williams

Glad I keep you laughing too, Irmgard. And no, writing is never boring. We might have to come out of our thieves dens every now and then for inspiration, fresh air, and a hotdog with chili and slaw which I've been craving lately, but you're correct, writing is never boring!

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