Saturday, January 29, 2011

Characters You Can Pinch - Part 7

Creating Likable Characters


Likable and realistic characters (see Characters You Can Pinch - Part 5:  Creating Realistic Characters) are related aspects to me.  As with all points of discussion in this blog over the last six days, they all have their place.

Now when I say create likable characters I'm not saying that the reader has to love everyone.  But it does mean there has to be some qualities that draw them in.  If you're trying to make a reader feel for the bad guy, expand on his agenda and motivations.

A simple illustration, a man steals food for his starving family.  If you knew the man had tried everything to get a job, you followed him on this journey and when he fell to the lowest point, without any other options, you wouldn't judge him for his actions.  Although, you might not agree with the robbery, you would be able to justify it, reason with the character's thought process - connect.

And that's the key, right there.  In creating likable characters, the reader must connect with them.

And, as mentioned above, an offshoot to likable characters is realistic ones.  We've all seen the movies where the hero comes out of an exploding building unharmed, in fact, his clothes aren't even singed by the fire.  Unrealistic, unbelievable, and honestly, it's hard to really connect with that.  Although, driven by the power of Hollywood's special effects, and maybe a drink while we're watching, we dismiss it.  It's not as easy in the written word.

Recently, I read a book by a popular author - I won't mention them by name in this thread.  But there was an explosion, and it seemed everyone walked away - despite the cause of the explosion leveled miles.  Explain that one to me.  The illogical aspect of this novel put me off this writer.

In order to connect, characters must be multi-faceted.  If they have a mean streak, why?  And it can go the other way too.  Which human do you know that is perfect - their looks, their words, their actions, their thought process?  I won't even bother answering the rhetorical question.  But, now apply this to your writing.  You can't have a person who has everything all put together either.  This type of character would fall flat on the page.

So create likable, realistic characters who could be the person next door, the guy at the corner store, the grandfather in a nursing home, and you're well on your way to having characters you can pinch.  Of course, there's nothing wrong with throwing in some explosions and gun play - in fact I look for those types of danger elements in a novel lol - but don't have them walk away without so much as a limp.
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