Sunday, September 30, 2007

Love Me, Love My Story

That's what our characters might tell us, and I believe they're right. When a reader falls in love with one of our main characters, he/she will follow that fictional person almost anywhere, through anything, because the reader cares intensely what happens to this "loved one."

Making a character attractive to the reader is about for more than physical beauty, or making the character a super-nice person who rescues fuzzy bunnies and delivers meals to the housebound elderly. Very attractive, fascinating characters can be plain/homely (a little plainness, in fact, can increase relatability; most of us aren't Miss America), snarky, weak (think of Kyra Sedgwick's character in The Closer, with her sugar addiction), selfish, or even lethal and still likable. So what are some of the "Pied Piper qualities" that keep us turning pages? Here are five that work for me.

1. A fascinating/refreshing/entertaining point of view. This character sees the world in a somewhat off-kilter fashion, and we can't wait to get her take on life's realities. We'd like to hang out with this person in real life. It might be a little dangerous, but at least we wouldn't be bored.
2. Unpredictability (within reason). This character surprises us continually while still remaining true to himself.
3. A moral core. The characters morals may be off, in terms of the reader's, but the character adheres to her own values, at least some of which are admirable and uphold our own morality. Though the person's actions may be wrong, her reasons work for us.
4. Recognizability. We've met folks at least a little like this person, so we believe in him. Or at least willingness suspend our disbelief.
5. Larger than life. This person says and does the things we wish we'd have the brains and guts (or the chutzpah) to attempt for ourselves. She lives life in vibrant color and tends to act rather than be acted upon. This person is the antithesis of the boring dust-mote character (as I call them), who floats through like as a passive victim.

So what makes you fall in love with (or want to hang out with) a particular character? Which characters in books, movies, or television, have been most attractive to you?


Joni Rodgers said...

Great topic to ponder, Colleen. And I agree with all of the above.

I think vulnerability makes a character easier to love, too. The reader feels a sort of protective instinct that makes them care what happens to this person. The trick, I suppose, is creating a character who is vulnerable without being pathetic or weak.

When I was a kid, I loved the Anne of Green Gables books and would have followed Anne to the ends of the earth. She was fiesty, flawed, and such great fun to be with.

Christie Craig said...

Great post Colleen.

I love books with quirky, flawed, but loveable characters. And I want to read about a character who is in trouble. Face it, they need conflict to be interesting, and I want to follow them and see the right and wrong choices they make in an attempt to get out of trouble. However, they have to have hero qualities or the book goes to my stack of "maybe read later" file.

Thanks for the post.


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