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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Likable Characters

I have been getting a lot of feedback from my beta readers this week. I had one person tell me that my main character wasn't likable! At first I was like, great, I have to redo the whole book and change her and was literally freaking out. After the initial heartbreak (I love my main character!) I decided to do some research.

My main character, Ryder isn't really supposed to be super likable in the beginning. She's a shy and down on her luck when the book starts. As the book progresses she has a transformation into an independent, fun woman. So I get that when the book starts how she could be unlikable.

However, I still want people to feel for her. I want the reader to want her to change, fix her life and grow up a little. The last thing I want is for the readers to write her off as a desperate girl and not care what she does the rest of the book. So how do I do this....

This blog has some good advice on creating likable characters.

  1. Make other characters like them. I agree with this one, however I don't think that's enough. Just because they have a friend doesn't make me like them. They have to have a quality the friend likes. 
  2. Sympathy. I'm not sure how I feel about this. One reason is that in my book, you do feel sorry for the bullied girl in the beginning. Yet the reader still didn't like her. I don't think sympathy is enough. Just because you feel sorry for someone doesn't mean you like them. 
  3. Talent. Giving the character a skill or talent. That's an interesting one. I think it's a good idea. If they're good at something it makes them different. We always root for someone who isn't the norm. 
  4. Want. Have the character want something. I don't know if that makes the character likable but that should be what drives the story. If they don't want anything, why are they in the book. I just don't know if that is the answer to making a character likable. 
I'm not sure if any of those were the answer. I feel like that's not enough to make me love a character and feel invested. Here is my personal take on what makes a character likable.

  1. Multi-dimensional personality. I don't want to read about someone who is as complex as a cat. I think inner dialogue helps here. I think really diving into the mind of a character brings out more qualities that have the opportunity to be likable. 
  2. Make sure your character has at least one redeeming quality. Let's say you're working with a villain. Sometimes we actually like the villain or the bad guy. This is because there is something else there. They can want to control the world, and step on hundreds of toes, but maybe it's all to become noticed or the gain approval of their father. Hello, smallville- I love Lex even though he's awful. 
  3. Give them a villain. If there is always someone putting them down or harming them we can sympathize. We feel bad for the character that they have to go through this. Make the villain extra evil to get more sympathy.
  4. Make them do something. If you want us to like a character they can't be boring and sit at home all day. At least don't talk about those parts. To make us like them, they have to do things. To make them extra likable- make them do things we want them to
  5. Humor. I've heard people talking about this one time and time again. I agree that humor can make us like something. How many times do we fall for the jerk in a romance novel? All of the time- why? Because they're usually witty and funny. If a character can actually make you laugh out loud. You've got a winner.  
Tomorrow I am going to explain the difference between likable characters and relatable ones. Which is better? Which should we strive for? This is super important when writing. I know what I strive for...


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