Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What pro gamer MC can teach you about your MC

When I first started reading blogs about writing, I came across a term that threw me for an initial loop: MC. Why was everyone talking about Min Chul, the Korean Starcraft 2 pro gamer and champion?

Then it became clear that the term MC, at least in these circles, refers to your main character. It saves several strokes on the keyboard and is pretty universal.

At first I thought it was kind of funny that reading “MC” immediately called to mind a renowned pro gamer, a sure sign of my severe nerddom. But then I began to see parallels, patterns, and connections between the two MCs of my life. So here's what SK Gaming's MC can teach us about good main characters:

1. A good MC surprises you

In Starcraft 2, you pick one of three alien races to champion. When MC won his first global championship, it was the first time that any Protoss player had won. He then became not just the first Protoss champion, but the first repeat global champion of any of the three races. No other Protoss player has come close to repeating MC's success. But why not, when they have the same units, buildings, and strategies available to them?

Because MC played differently than any other Protoss. Other Protoss players tend to play defensively, waiting patiently until they've amassed an enormous late-game army. But MC turned all that on its head, instead attacking his opponent early and playing aggressively, even when conventional wisdom was that early Protoss units were weak.

Writing Application
Your main character should not be predictable—not to the other characters, to the reader, or even to yourself as the writer. The reason we want to follow this person's story is because we want to see what he or she will do next. If it's obvious or predictable, what's the point? That's not to say that your MC should have wildly different personalities and change all the time. Your MC can still be consistent. But give them conflicts where they must make one choice or another, instead of pigeonholing them through certain actions in your contrived plot.

2. A good MC is active

MC's aggressive strategies were successful for a few reasons. One of these is that by being the first player to attack, he was putting his destiny into his own hands. If he controlled his attack well, he would get ahead. If he controlled it poorly, he would be woefully behind. He put himself out there with these early gambits, relying on his cleverness, decision-making, and superior unit control to pull him through.

Writing Application
Your MC shouldn't be a passive player in your plot, and he shouldn't react to it, either. Good characters aren't meant to service plots; it should be the other way around. Too many manuscripts involve things happening to a character instead of a character making things happen.

If you allow your MC to be active, they can often get themselves into more trouble than you'd originally planned for them—which is good, because then they have to rely on their cleverness and decision-making to get themselves out. This gives your MC an opportunity to show his strengths, to grow, and to captivate the reader.

3. A good MC has personality

MC didn't only make his name as a pro gamer because of his success and aggressive play style. He is also one of the showiest, over-dramatic pro gamers in ESPORTS.

Before matches, he's pointed ominously at his next opponent, made throat-slitting motions at them, and even banged his fist against an opponent's booth.

After matches, he's celebrated his victories by shaking his finger, giving a thumbs-down, and even dressing up as a murloc and dancing around on stage (this actually happened; video below).

In interviews, he predicts that he'll beat his opponent 4-0 and make them cry. He's cocky and intimidating, especially considering that good sportsmanship in Korea is almost defined by a player's humility and mild-manneredness. He's earned nicknames like the Bosstoss (for his domineering style and behavior), the Kratoss (after the God of War, for his aggressive play and seeming invincibility), and Obamatoss (based on his desire to one day become President of Korea--fans chant "4 More years!" when he wins).

Writing Application
Your own MC doesn't need be a total showboat, but he or she needs to have some personality. Even if a boring accountant saves the world, the Saving of the World isn't entertaining if the accountant is boring. Give your MC a unique personality, voice, or perspective, so they become more than just an outline-fulfilling automaton.

Even if you don't know anything about ESPORTS, try to make your MC as captivating as SK.MC.

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