Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Your Readers Should Care About Your Main Character

The most important thing in writing any type of fiction, whether it be a picture book, middle-grade, young adult, or adult genre, the main character has to express traits that allow the reader to personally connect with them.  These are some tips on creating believable and likable characters that your readers will care for.
Make them imperfect.  Nobody likes a perfect person.  They simply do not exist.  It is hard to relate with a character if they have no human flaws or weaknesses.  True, you do not want the flaws in them to be so over exaggerated that your reader begins to dislike your character.  Think about the characters that you have fallen in love with as you’ve read.  What flaws did they have?  I really love Harry Potter, who doesn’t?  His flaw was that he was constantly making mistakes, putting his friends in danger, and trying to play the hero.  These things didn’t make me like him less, but I understood that they are what made him more realistic.
Don’t make them whiny.  It is hard when characters are placed in difficult situations to not make them look too weak.  We as writers want our characters to start at a place and grow from there, but if your main character is always crying when faced with a challenge it can be a turn off.  Think about it.  How do you feel about the person, coworker, friend, (we all have one of these in our lives) that is the complainer.  Nothing ever seems to go their way.  It’s difficult sometimes to show imperfections and not make them out to be whiney.  Using Harry Potter as an example again, in book five, Harry shows us his “whiney” side and for me it was a turn off.  Luckily, Harry pulled out of the “woe is me” stage and continued on being a strong character.   
Make them real.  I like to write out the most random things about my characters.  Some things will never make it into the book, but because I know something about them it helps me make decisions when they are placed in a precarious situation.  A good way for you to do this is interview your character.  Find out their likes and dislikes.  You’ll find that the more real a character is the more they will relate to the reader. Those are not the only ways to help your readers connect with the main character, but a few.  
And that’s my key on how readers should care about your characters.


  1. Nice post. David Farland's Daily Kick in the Pants had to do with characters too. He said, give them a good dose of cultural guilt. Something their ancestors did that they are ashamed of. Did they have slave runners in the family, or is it more recent. Is there an Uncle who is a known sex offender and he hasn't been caught. Great stuff for conflict.

  2. Do you do a mental or physical interview with your Character? A lot of people jot down the basics but never actually write out more that they don't use in the story. It's probably a good idea for all of us. Thanks.

    1. Renae, I try to do an actual interview. I have a note book that I write down the most basic things about a character. Some may never make it into the book, but if my character reaches for a soda, I know what soda they like. The more you know th character the more it will convey to your reader.
      I wrote a post a while ago on the color code. This is another good thing to use. You can select which color your character is and it helps when they are placed in situations. If your character is red, for instance they are a born leader. They wouldn't nessisarily follow the crowd- the crowd follows them. Things like this are just little helpers. I try not to spend so much time interviewing and color coding, your time should be spent writing, but it does help. JK Rowling has notebooks on each character in her Harry Potter series. When she needed something she pulled from that set of notebooks. She said she would one day release all that stored info, which I think she now does through Pottermore.
      I believe you should know more about your character then what is put in though. Think of it this way: take your character on a first date, a blind date. What do you want to know about them?
      I hope this helps and thanks for your comment. :)


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