Recently, my husband and I were discussing movies. The gist of the conversation came down to how a likeable character could make a movie better or make a bad movie tolerable. I have been to movies with weak storylines that I have totally enjoyed because I liked or felt a connection to the main character and cared what happened to them.
Readers become immersed in your story through your characters. And it is by far easier for them to connect with the protagonist if it is someone they like. If readers don’t like the main character, they will stop reading. And who could blame them? Who wants to spend hours with someone they don’t like?
Now of course, you and your reader don’t have to like EVERY character. Many of us love to hate a bad guy. In fact, all your characters shouldn’t be totally likeable.
The best way to have a likable character is to make your character real. You need to give them realistic behaviors and character traits.
Here are a few tips for developing likeable characters.
1.) Write about someone with whom you would like to spend time with. Your reader is going to immerse themselves into the life of this character. Would you rather be stuck with someone who is mean and alienates everyone? Most likely not. Neither would your reader so develop a character that you would want to be stuck in an elevator with.
2.) Develop a clear description or personality for your character. Let the reader visualized them. And for their personality, you don’t have to stick with traditional, likeable traits such as sweet, funny or brave. Your character can be sarcastic or even a trouble maker and still be likeable. Remember as long as there are elements which the reader can empathize or sympathize with they will stick by them until the end of the story.
3.) Give your character challenges. Every character needs a few flaws (or in the case of villains a redeeming quality or two). Readers get bored with a too-perfect character. And no story is complete without some type of conflict. You want to give us someone to cheer for. People are eager to like characters who have the tenacity to overcome problems. We cheer for people who:
- Never give up
- Put others first
- Stand up to bullies
- Give up something dear to them
- Stand up for others who are weaker
- Persist to right a wrong
- Overcome an obstacle to reach a goal
Writing likeable and realistic characters takes practice. And these characters can make a great storyline even better so it is well worth the time to invest in building and creating that likeable main character.