Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Struggle To Make Likeable (Or At Least Empathetic) Characters

I’m not going to brag and say my characters are likable. In fact, many of my reviews on Amazon include at least one reference to a character in my books they despise.

I’m going to take some of the heat for this. I HATE nice characters. Every time I read a story where characters are nice to each other, I want to puke.

And I have a hunch I’m not the only one. Girls don’t like nice guys, and guys don’t like nice girls.

I’ll admit, in my attempts to avoid nice, I sometimes end up going too far and end up writing about assholes and bitches. Although a funny thing I’ve noticed, if you write a guy that’s an asshole and you’re in a girl’s head, he’s HOT. You write that same character inside the guy’s head, and he’s a total jerk. But that’s beside the point. My point is we don’t really like nice characters, but we don’t really like mean either. So what do we like?

We like interesting.

So what makes a character interesting? Well, for one thing, you stop worrying about llikable What’s important in a character isn’t whether we like them, it’s whether we empathize with them. You empathize with characters that struggle, that have demons, that have emotional baggage. In the reader’s mind, a character with a rough, mysterious past, will ALWAYS beat a rando with no past. Or a character who has major trust issues because of a bad relationship. Those kind of issues sort of seem like our own issues, so we empathize. We might not like the person, but at least we care about them. And that makes all the difference. We’re going to read the story if we care about them. 

Sometimes characters don’t end up being likable but I’m okay with that. I mean, how many of your favorite characters would you ACTUALLY want to have as a best friend? No, really. Think about this one.

What if Katniss Everdeen was your best friend?

You shudder.

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