One of the issues I've been dealing with regarding my in-development story Genesis is who is the main character. For some time I've been thinking it is a scientist who researches infectious diseases. I've labored on the story's structure, motivations, pacing, and themes, all thinking they revolved around this character. But I couldn't escape the fact that this character didn't resonate with me. And if he didn't resonate with me, that means he wouldn't resonate with readers.
It made me stop and think about the importance of who your main character is. Along with the theme and goal of your story, the choice of the main character has got to be one of the biggest decisions you'll make as you develop a story. After all, this is the character we have to get to know, the one whose pain we should feel, the one we're rooting for, the one whose journey most compels us to read this story. If we don't feel for him, we won't like the book.
Right now I'm reading the book A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander. Although it happens to be a true story, it's still about a "character," in this case German fighter pilot Franz Stigler. The writers do such a fantastic job on this book, going over Stigler's background, upbringing, influences, and personality, that I care for him. And he was fighting for the other side! That takes some serious writing chops.
Now look at the Star Wars movies. In the first trilogy (by that I mean Episodes 4, 5, and 6) Han Solo is really the central character of the story. His journey is our journey, and he is the Everyman that we all relate to. That's one (of many) of the reasons that trilogy worked so well. But in Episodes 1, 2, and 3 there was not a single relatable character. I couldn't identify with anyone so I didn't find myself rooting for anyone. Special effects seemed to be the star, and that you can find in any summer blockbuster or game today.
So for me, I've gone back to the drawing board and I'm revising who my main character will be in Genesis. I'm close to nailing him down, although I still have some digging to do on his background and what got him to where he's at in the beginning of the story. My scientist will still be in the story and will, in fact, be crucial to the story. But it's too important to the overall story that someone else take the lead.
Remember as you craft your story to really figure out who is central to the story. Our goal is to compel a reader to make his or her story our story.