Monday, January 27, 2014

Writing 101: Creating a Likeable Character

One of the best ways to create a book that readers will like is to start with a character that readers will like. So now you've got to know how to create a likeable character. It's really not as easy as it seems. 

Manufacturing Like

What I've just asked you to do is actually insane. You're supposed to invent an entire person, out of nothing but your own imagination mind you, and now you have to figure out how to make me like that person. Only you and I have never met, and you don't really know that much about me. Oh, and it will help if I believe that your character is a real person...not just a character on a page. 

This is why so many authors turn to drink to calm their nerves. Creating a likeable character is actually a really hard thing to do, and lots of writers just can't figure out the secret formula. But never fear, because I know it. 

Lots of authors who offer tips will tell you lots of different things about character creation. But when it comes right down to it, there's just one way to create a likeable character: make them real. If I feel anything about this character, you've just created a great one. But there are some tricks you can use to bring out that emotion, and render your character likeable.

  • The obstacle: Give your character some sort of frightening obstacle to overcome. Give them an antagonist, perhaps, or some problem (such as being dirt poor) that makes it easier to root for them. Like often begins with fandom. 
  • The redeeming quality: Of course, it helps if your character has some trait that makes them admirable. A talent, a charitable heart, great courage in the face of opposition -- give them something that will make others respect them. From respect and admiration, like is easily born.
  • The awareness: Want to be tricky and create a multi-faceted character who is both good and bad? If your character does bad things or contains flaws, give them some self-awareness. If they know they are doing bad and they feel remorse, it's much easier to like this character. After all, everyone has done something bad.
  • The look: It's much easier to like a character who looks like a person. I always caution authors against creating characters who are too physically perfect. No one considers themselves to be physically perfect, so an extraordinarily beautiful character can be very off-putting.

The truth is, there's no real formula to creating a likeable character. Give them traits and thoughts and feelings that make them seem like a real person, and there will be readers who like that character. But make your character too perfect or powerful or divine, or too evil and unaffected, and it's going to be hard to summon up any affection.

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