Lesson 5 -- How to Make Readers Like Your Characters
- In order to make characters real, they canít be all black or all white. Thatís boring and also predictable. They have to have flaws, so that the reader is kept guessing on how they will react. In this comes the bigger challenge, how to make a flawed character likable.
- Some ways:
- Suffering, either physical or emotional -- donít overuse, and the most important aspect is the cause and effect of the suffering, rather than the act itself. Also, stoicism works well. The more restrained the pain in the character, the greater the reader reaction. The Curious Incident of the Day In Night Time is an EXCELLENT example of this. Because of his autism, the kid could not feel the emotional pain of what was happening to him. So, the emotional pain was transferred onto the reader. Jamie from Outlander is another great example of this. He maintains a cheeky sense of humor and survivability after crisis after crisis *after crisis* is heaped upon him. The reader canít help but like him.
- Jeopardy --
- Sexual Tension
- Make them familiar, yet not boring. Characters who are like people we know.
- Courage and Fair Play. The honorable hero (or heroine) is always a great character. They can be bitchy (Eve Dallas, Scarlet OíHara), but most readers will still root for them to succeed.
- Good Attitude
- Draftee or Volunteer
- Endearing Imperfections: The Lovable Rogue -- canít make your character too perfect. The most loved are those with very real flaws.
- Give your characters, hungers, hopes, dreams, desires (see Character and Goals). Let me be proactive about taking charge of their life. Give the reader a reason to root for them. The hungers and hopes and dreams are HUGE. A reader wants to see that the character *WANTS* these things very badly. The best characters are the ones who are passionate about their desires and goals, even if the goals are not necessarily the most heroic.
- ďWhen the story is about the characterís plan -- a quest or caper story -- or when the story is about the characterís need -- as all character stories are-- then this tool makes the character almost irresistibly sympathetic. Thatís why audiences find themselves rooting for heroes to succeed at the most appalling things -- robberies, assassinations, marriage-wrecking love affairs. Once weíre caught up in a characterís plans and dreams, weíre on her side almost without limit.Ē Characters and Viewpoint, p. 82.
The hardest part for me is a writer is to ensure that my characters want their goals. Itís very easy to slip into a story that is events *happening* to the character instead of a character driving the story to achieve their goals.