By SM Ford
For the most part, we want our main character in a story to be likable. We want the reader to care enough about the character to keep reading. I know I’ve put books down because I just didn’t care what happened. So how do we create likeable characters?
First, likable characters are multidimensional. He feels like a real person with a personality, background, an occupation, interests, likes and dislikes, etc. She has good and bad traits/habits. Each has their own specific set of problems, strengths, and beliefs.
Second, think about the people you find likable. What makes them likable? People who attract me are friendly, honest, hardworking, interesting, and interested in others. I want to be able to trust what she says. It doesn’t mean I agree with everything he says. It doesn’t mean she is perfect. In fact, perfect people are unrelatable. Interesting people have experienced life and are willing to share and listen. We have some things in common, but not everything. There’s something I can admire—a strength, a talent, a gift. These are the kinds of people I’m willing to spend time with, so those are the kinds of main characters I’m eager to read. Make sure you know and share your main character’s good traits and strengths.
Third, think about the flaws that your main character can have that you’d be sympathetic to. A person who kicks puppies, is always annoyed by little kids, and thinks nothing of lying or stealing doesn’t garner my sympathy. On the other hand, a guy who puts his foot in his mouth, a gal who struggles with her weight, someone who is overly shy or worries too much—those are things I can relate to. This doesn’t mean a main character can’t start out with some detestable flaw, but most flaws will be understandable in some way.
Fourth, your main character has to have a desire or dream and a believable problem. If he wants/needs nothing, why do I care? This dream/desire can’t be reached too easily—the solution to the problem can’t be too simple. The obstacles along the way are what make the story interesting, especially if the obstacles force a main character to make decisions and choose options counter to the desire or dream. I want to see this person work for what they want.
Fifth, your main character needs to change in some way. Living, breathing people are not the same today as they were a year ago—sometimes even yesterday or five minutes ago. Good main characters echo this. What a character goes through should affect him—make him grow, change his opinion, maybe even change his dream or desire. A story shares her journey—the ups and downs along the road, the detours—including the arrival, even if it may not be where she planned to go. That’s change.
We root for the underdog who succeeds, for the hero who isn’t perfect and has struggles, for the ordinary person who does something extraordinary. Help us cheer for your main characters by making them likeable.
Thanks so much for the informative post! I know you have a book out. Would you like to share a bit about that?
About SM Ford...
Ready for adventure in the snowy Colorado mountains, Cecelia Gage is thrilled to be employed as the live-in housekeeper for her favorite best-selling author. The twenty-five-year old doesn't count on Mark Andrews being so prickly, nor becoming part of the small town gossip centering on the celebrity. Neither does she expect to become involved in Andrews' family drama and a relationship with Simon Lindley, Mark's oh-so-good-looking best friend. And certainly, Cecelia has no idea she'll be mixed up in a murder investigation because of this job. Will Cecelia's faith get her through all the trouble that lies ahead?
Links for purchase...
Barnes and Noble - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/
Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/
About SM Ford...
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction, short stories, and articles. Her first novel, Alone, was published in 2016 by Clean Reads. Besides writing herself, she enjoys helping other writers reach their goals. She blogs on her website at smfordbooks.com and is an instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature.
Where you can find her online...