For a few years now I have been marinating in this story I've been trying to write. I've figured out the general plot, the setting, and many of the characters. My problem: The center of this entire idea (the main character). I haven't been able to settle on any character I have created for the role! I always have the same image in my head... but the details, I can't flesh them out! Help me!
The story is set in Modern America, and begins in Nogales Arizona. This is where the main char. lives before he must leave. The basic format of this story is a fantasy/supernatural universe that the "real world" thinly covers. Superpowers exist, but not scientifically. Rather, they manifest in those that have in their bloodline certain powerful forces: Fey, demons, Monsters, even the occasional alien. My problem seems to be not who the character is, but what his abilities are, and how he got them. Nothing seems to feel right whenever I try to use it. I'm extremely frustrated and need help.
Well, in my experience, whenever I have writer's block, that's my subconscious mind telling me "there's something wrong and/or personally dissatisfying with the creative situation at present." So, I've learned that it's not so much a problem as the jimminy cricket near my brain stem slamming on the brakes so that I can make something more awesome.
Being aware of this, I've learned how to self-analyze the problem so I can "go around the wall" instead of trying to bust through it, which I find only makes a writer's block worse. It's much easier to walk around the mountain than to try to plow through it. As wonderful a metaphor as that is, I'm not sure it solves your problem. Let me give you some personal examples and see if that helps.
For a writing project I'd been working on, I've ended up rewriting the beginning about seven times. The one time I did try to plow through, the intuitive way I'd been handling the characters made the problem more obvious so that I was better able to identify it. Basically, I had a group of five characters that were fundamentally jerks, and the more I pushed them to act together as a group, the more they (or I felt that they) wanted to kill each other. This identified the fact that the way I'd characterized the characters made them ineffective as the cohesive unit that I intended them to be, so I ended up having to rewrite their characterization to make it work better. I ultimately scrapped the idea for various other reasons, but that is one example of how I overcame the writer's block.
Another example was when I was rewriting another opening sequence for a different, more developed story (I like jumping between projects when I have a logjam in one). Although the redraft was a much smoother and more appealing opening sequence, I stalled once the section was completed with creative block. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the reason I stalled was because the opening sequence, while compelling and interesting, did not communicate the overall tone of the novel (the opening implied a story of overcoming personal shyness/doubts and racism whereas the story itself was more about two sisters helping each other to deal with catastrophe). That realized, I made a new opening sequence that reflected this tone, and the creative logjam went away.
So I'd say its your subconscious telling you that something's not working, and I'd encourage you to ask yourself what the problem might be. Try to analyze it and try to figure out what particular parts of the main character are uncomfortable to you. It sounds like you're interested in the overall world, but the character itself does not appeal to you. Perhaps you're running into the problem of making your main character too powerful (i.e. ability to stop time, instantly draining all dramatic tension because, well, the guy is practically unstoppable), or maybe you're trying to think too hard on the character's origins when it is neither of interest or relevance to you. Perhaps the problem is that your character already STARTS with a power, and you're trying to justify it. It seems like you have a character that appeals to you, but once you try to create a superpower you lose interest. What if, let's say, you tried having him be "normal"? Maybe he develops his superpower OVER THE COURSE of the story, or maybe he is a normal person that never develops a power and tries to deal with that fact and become an equal/important participant in spite of that "flaw."
Try completely different paradigms, and see what appeals to you. What gets YOU excited? What if your character was a girl, for instance? What if the character was a demon? What if the character was an 80 year old lady who never believed in this world and is suddenly immersed in it?
Thank you! I think that there definitely IS something wrong with my character that I am not addressing. Perhaps it is my especial emphasis on an origin or ethnicity that doesn't matter, or perhaps bestowing powers that cannot synch canonically with his personality. If I may pester a mite more, may I give the pieces I HAVE figured out, and perhaps gain your insight on the incongruities?
I have an appearance, a medium height, olive skinned male, with messy jet-black hair and deep green eyes. Ever since he was born, he has sported sharper than average teeth, and from an early age exhibited odd eating habits. The only items of clothing that ever seem to be constant in my mind are black, ragged-looking converse and a thick, almost jacket-esque overshirt, dark brown in color. I have cycled through good clothing for him, and have drawn blanks.
Whenever his abilities activate, the most obvious change is in his eyes, the pupils of which drastically constrict, and the hue of his eye brightens and changes, leaving the image of pinpricks in startling golden eyes. I am uncertain of specific hairstyle or anything else for his image.
The superpowers stump me entirely. The only power I can feel comfortable with is not even... how to say. crimefighting material. He can naturally bite through most tough substances, and nothing he eats seems to harm him in the least. This doesn't feel at all sufficient to make him any sort of hero.
I think you answered your own question in your last sentence. This character doesn't feel like a protagonist. The appearance is fine, one could even say that his ability activation is fine, but any power to do with biting/the mouth feels fundamentally feral and animalistic, dangerous, perhaps even brutal or insane. There is something primal about using your mouth as a weapon that feels uncivilized, unheroic, and wrong (just in general). I'd speculate that the problem is that that dichotomy is a contradiction - you want to give him something that doesn't come across as heroic, so your subconscious is telling you to stop until you can find a solution to the problem that helps make this character heroic again without sacrificing your own vision of the character.
There are two solutions that I can think of: 1). make the world worse so this guy feels more heroic by comparison OR 2). apply a more heroic/noble framework to the ability to vindicate it.
For 1, this is pretty obvious. If you make the world more horrible and crapsacky (like a dystopia, like The Matrix, like 1984) then this guy won't seem that bad by comparison. A hero who bites things seems like a pretty swell guy compared to another person who likes to melt the bones inside your body or make them explode (while still inside you). This would fix the problem, but it's pretty... horrifying to contemplate, so it may not be the best solution. It IS a solution that makes relative anti-heroes seem more heroic: make the rest of the world suckier and these grayish characters seem pretty nice. For instance, Wolverine would be a pretty nasty person in a Disney movie, but if you put him in the Marvel universe he's actually not that bad. That's the power of context.
For 2, if you can associate the power with something more culturally identified as good/noble/righteous, then that fixes the problem while retaining the power. To wit, if I give you $500, this seems like a... decent thing to do, but not really noteworthy. If I give you $500 to help fix your broken leg, then it seems noble and generous. The only distinction is the "why" because everything else is the same.
The thought that springs to mind when you talk about this character and his powers is that it seems reflective of a "werewolf" archetype. Those are the types of characters that we associate with biting but at the same time can be changed to be more heroic, depending on the character. Perhaps your character is a shapeshifter whose real power has to do with wolves or lions, two decent/heroic archetypes that you can associate to redeem his abilities. I'm reminded of that because his eyes turn gold which reminded me of Perrin Aybara from the Wheel of Time (who also got golden eyes because he turned, well, part wolf for lack of a better, succinct explanation). If you want to go with that idea, perhaps its your character's destiny to not only discover and gain skill over his powers, but to assemble a "dream team" of like characters because the power of the pack/pride is stronger than alone. Perhaps he has a sort of Voltron like power that means when each wolfman type hero is within 30' radius of each other, they're all much stronger/faster/powerful than when they're alone.
Or if you want to him to still be a loner, you could try a Tiger or an Eagle. Something that's an animal but which seems noble/good by association is probably the way to go (i.e. NOT a snake, snakes aren't usually thought of all too highly).
Or you could try a honey badger. ;)
How you decide to go about it is, of course, up to you.
Hm... You hit the nail right on the head, and I never even saw it. He's animalistic, and heroes cannot be, under normal circumstances. There are other minor characters that I am perfectly happy with, suppose I used those instead? A sort of "no one is main" type of idea. Zeke sounds to minor to be main anyway. :/
He is in a team of five.
Well, only you can judge what is best for you, but I'm glad I was able to help you solve your problem. If you think another character would make a stronger protagonist, then I'd encourage you to experiment and see if that person would be more suitable instead. You could even try a pentagonist approach (5 protagonists) that alternates between each of the five. This is common in fantasy/science fiction to run multiple plot threads at once.
I suppose I should. you have been a great help, thank you.