Making Us Fall in Love With a Character

Posted by annastan on September 8th, 2010. Filed under: Craft, WIP, Writing Rants.

As I’ve been working on revising my fairy tale (yet again) I’ve been thinking about something my agent said in her comments about one of my two main characters: You need to make us fall in love with him. Easy task, right? Um. Yeah.

One of the things that makes characters relatable is when we see what they care about. So I decided to really go with that. My character’s young nephew had been in the picture before, but in this round of revision I’m making my MC’s relationship with him more prominent. After all, who doesn’t love a guy who’s good with kids?

lovable+buttonBut amping up the relationship with the nephew isn’t just a cheap trick to make my protagonist more likable. It’s a way of showing us a different side of his personality, and it’s also setting up more for him to lose. This wasn’t in previous drafts of the story, but now I’m realizing that the nephew might have to be put in harm’s way a bit more since he is so important to my MC. Sorry, kid!

Something else I’ve been thinking about that often makes a character likable is his/her sense of humor. But here’s where things get tricky. My MC is a bit glum (rightfully so after all he’s been through) and he’s not exactly the joking type. Once he meets the other MC, he lightens up a bit, but his sense of humor remains in the background. I’ve been thinking of ways to bring it in more, but it doesn’t quite feel natural.  Now I’m thinking maybe his lack of a sense humor is something I can play up more, make it more of a quirk.

It’s a slow process, making a character lovable. Ultimately, I think it’s about making him sympathetic but also complex. You want that character to feel like a real person, since his faults can be just as endearing as his strengths.

What makes you fall in love with a character? Are there techniques you’ve used to make your characters more lovable?

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10 Responses to Making Us Fall in Love With a Character

  1. Andrea Vlahakis

    I think it’s the faults or flaws that makes a character real for the reader because it shows the reader he’s really like them. It also shows the character’s vulnerabilities.

  2. Stina

    There isn’t one thing that makes me like a character, but for me, wit goes a long way. The main thing is they have to be believable and real. And they have to be true to themselves.

  3. Katie Carroll

    Your post really got me thinking. The part about the character’s lack of humor reminded me of Harry Potter. Here’s a kid who’s been through a lot and right from birth, but he still has a sense of humor. Now his humor tends to be darker and often self-depricating, but that was one of the things that really drew me to him as a character. Maybe your character sees humor in a different way and that’s why trying to make him ‘jokier’ isn’t working. I could see him having a glum, ironic sense of humor (I kind of like that contradiction in terms). Well, just some thoughts…take them or leave them!

  4. annastan

    Andrea, absolutely! That’s the part that always takes me the longest – figuring out the characters’ quirks and flaws.

    Stina, I agree with you about wit. I love a smart character who looks at the world in his own unique way.

    Katie, that is an excellent point. My character’s sense of humor is rather dark, but maybe that can actually enhance some of the scenes (instead of distracting from them). Thanks!

  5. Laura Marcella

    I agree; I think it’s the flaws of a character that make a character seem real. It’s when the character triumphs in some way despite those flaws that make him endearing. Everyone likes a hero, but everyone loves a hero who’s also as complex and conflicted as we are!

  6. Catherine A. Winn

    I fall in love with a character who makes me feel like I know him personally as a friend. When I begin to worry about the character then I know I’m involved totally in seeing him do well.

  7. Karen Strong

    I love a character who shows vulnerability. We all have our fears and seeing that in a character draws me closer.

    Good luck Anna. I know you will make us fall for your character. :)

  8. Heather Kelly

    Thinking…thinking…nothing really revealing or witty to say. Except that I loved how you said you wanted to pump up his lack of humor as a quirk. I think you’re moving in the right direction. Yay!!

  9. Lindsey Renee Rose

    If you’ve ever heard of the “Save the Cat” screenwriting books, it’s a similar principle. In movies, the MC better do something to make us like him or her!

  10. Terry Lynn Johnson

    this is a weakness in my writing, so I appreciated this post!