Monday, February 17, 2014

Help for an Unlikable Character by Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck

Happy Monday, writers. Has anyone ever told you your main character isn't likable? Rachel Hauck is here with some great tips to help us write them so readers will root for them. Read on! ~ Annette

Help for an Unlikable Character
by Rachel Hauck

No one starts out to create an unlikeable character. But in the course of inventing conflict and flaws, adding tension and motivation, we sometimes create narrow, slightly negative heroes and heroines.

One of my first submissions to my earliest agent came back to me with: “I don’t like the heroine.”

When I braved an e-mail to ask about it, she said, “Just make her more sympathetic.”

Oh, okay… Now how do I do that?

I got practical. What makes me like someone? What makes me likeable? What makes me like a character?

Compassion. Sense of humor. A sense of strength, even if they are in a hard place. An idea of where they want to go. Who they want to be.

Likeable flaws. Yes, there is such a thing!

If you’re getting feedback that your characters are unlikeable, consider that you’re not allowing enough of their true inner journey/inner struggle show.

Here are a couple of reasons why your character might not be likeable:

1.                       You’ve not done enough emotional character work. What are his fears, dreams, goals. What’s the lie he believes? What happened in his past that shaped him at the time of the story opening? What internal journey do you want him to go on?
2.                      You’re trying to be funny but it’s coming across snarky. I’ve seen this a lot. Writers trying to quip and be cute, but it ends up sounding rude and mean. So make sure you’re humor isn’t attacking or making fun of other characters.
3.                      You’re not giving enough character history and motivation for why the protagonist is doing what he’s doing. If he’s robbing a bank, show the reader it’s because he’s at wits end to find a way to ransom his kidnapped wife.
4.                      Last reason why your protagonist might not be likeable: you don’t have a definitive story goal. What does she want in this story? What will she do at the end she couldn’t do at the beginning?

So, what tangible things can you do to make your characters more likeable?
1.                      Give her an endearing flaw. What if she’s so black and white she doesn’t understand any of life’s gray issues? That becomes part of the story journey and character development.
2.                     Put the hero in a sympathetic situation. Instead of having him instigating something, have him reacting to a situation he finds himself in. For example, my unwed father character finally gets a chance to meet his daughters. It’s been ten years. Why mess up his life, and theirs, now? But he’s been given the opportunity and as uncomfortable as it is, he’s going to take it. Sure, he got himself into it, but given the chance to do the right thing, he does.
3.                      Give her a noble quest and cause. What good thing does she want in the story? In the scene? Even if your protagonist finds herself in an odd spot, what good does she want to come from it?
4.                      Create dialog with secondary character that reveals the protagonist’s true identity. Even if he’s in the middle of robbing a bank, show how he’s doing so to rescue his wife. He’s desperate. We see lots of characters we like in this kind of tight situation but we cheer for them. We know good will somehow come of it.

Watch movies, read books with edgy protagonists. What makes you like and cheer for the characters? Study likeable characters then apply what you learn to your characters.
Happy Writing.

Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck
Princess Ever After released February 4, 2014

Regina Beswick was born to be a princess. But she’s content to be a small-town girl, running a classic auto restoration shop, unaware a secret destiny awaits her. One that will leap from the pages of her grandmother’s hand-painted book of fairytales. Tanner Burkhardt is the stoic Minister of Culture for the Grand Duchy of Hessenberg. When he is tasked to retrieve the long-lost princess, he must overcome his fear of failure in order to secure his nation’s future—and his own. Yet lurking in the political shadows is a fierce opponent with sinister plans to abolish the throne forever. Overwhelmed with opposition, Regina must decide if she’s destined to restore old cars or an ancient nation. Together—with a little divine intervention—Regina and Tanner discover the truth of her heritage and the healing power of true love.


Learn more about best-selling and award-winning author, Rachel Hauck at her website. 
Twitter: @RachelHauck