Monday, July 27, 2009

Characters that Resonate

How do you create characters that people love? Do you make them nice? Do you make them do everything right? All the time?

Quite the opposite in fact. Characters that are perfect, are perceived as too perfect, and most readers cannot identify with them. In fact these characters can become cardboard cutouts that the reader hates.

To make your characters believeable and likeable, they have to have faults. Most readers identify with characters that are like them, and everyone has faults. The more your character has faults like your reader, the more the reader will identify with them.

But you have to be careful about what type of faults and how serious the faults are, or you can create a situation where your character is no longer useful.

If your character doubts themselves at every turn and then suddenly takes charge and saves the day, how many people are going to believe it?

Make sure that your character faults are not something that is going to hinder their role in the story.

What kind of faults do your characters have?


  1. The big lesson I've learned about character is to make them sympathetic, but not necessarily likable. As long as a reader is intrigued by the character, as long as they want to learn more about her or him, then they'll keep turning the page.

    For me, I'm often intrigued by people who seem unsympathetic and/or unlikable. Unfortunately for me, that's who I want to write about. So, I constantly struggle with trying to bring out what's interesting about them.

  2. my main character in my novel is jealous, longing for what she can't have. she's likeable, a little frustrating at times

  3. Generally I like characters that are fundamentally good, or that want to do the right thing, even when it's not obvious what the right thing is. I recently read a novel (Tigana) where there was a very well-developed character with a strong purpose, but who lost her way and was unable to serve her purpose. However, she struggled with this weakness until the end of the book, and then made her choice. I hated her choice, but I did appreciate the depth and truth written into the character. This character (it was Dianora, in case you've read the book too) was one of the most memorable in any book I've recently read.

    That being said (sorry if it was long), I'm trying to write a short story right now, but it's coming out terrible! I think it's because the main character is utterly selfish and does a lot of damage without knowing or caring. Morally flawed, but without qualms or struggles. This makes her totally, unredeemably unlikable, and I think may spell disaster for the story.

    Well, there's my rambling response. Great topic, by the way!


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