Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I is for identifying with the lead character

Can your reader identify with your characters?

You may have the best story line in the world, but if your characters are two dimensional and unbelievable no one will read your fiction.

Good fiction contains complex and interesting characters complete with quirks. 

So today I'm sharing a, 
can the reader identify with the lead character checklist.

1. Is the lead believable? Can the reader imagine that in the right circumstances and in a similiar situation they may make the same sort of choices?
2. Does the lead appear to be a real human being? Do they struggle with everyday life problems?
3. Have you made sure they are not perfect and have fears?
4. What does your lead character do and think that makes them like real people?

If you are worried that your lead character is simply not right, how can you fix it?

Put your character in jeopardy. 
Give them hardship, think of Clarence in Silence of the Lambs, troubled childhood, desperately trying to prove herself.

Make your lead the underdog. Charlie in Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, the odds of him winning were extreme. Apart from the clue to the reader that things would turn out alright because his name was in the title.

Vulnerability. Lots of Stephen Kings characters are slightly vulnerable people pushed into supernatural circumstances. Look at the children in IT, Danny in The Shining.

Lastly make them likeable by doing likeable things. I think one of the best examples of a flawed likeable lead is the central character Mike, in The Magic Cottage by James Herbert.


  1. I don't have to like the major protagonist - but I do have to be interested in what he/she will do next. And they have to act in a congruent way. No sudden inexplicable character shifts. Character is probably THE most important thing in a novel for me...

  2. I'm glad you agree, I need good characters too

  3. I love to give my lead characters a couple of flaws and make them a little imperfect.

  4. Keeping the characters human (including those who aren't) helps with the relatable factor. Write the best characters you can because there is someone out there who can relate to them. :)

  5. I think it's a hard thing to do and i guess you have to identify your audience first. I remember reading Twilight and not being able to identify with the main character at all! But then I wasn't the target audience.

  6. Sometimes you have to grow into a character. For example, I couldn't identify with Elizabeth Bennett as a teen, but reread Pride & Prejudice in college and could then--mostly because of changes in myself and knowing more of the social history of her era. Good post1

  7. I've seen some authors who have taken the risky step of making their lead characters unlikeable - I admire that, but I don't think I could pull it off. Thanks for the tips.
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  8. Likability can be a tough one, especially when you're trying to create a main character who maybe falls a little outside the norm!

  9. I have wanted to write fiction, but I haven't created anything substantial yet. The most difficult part for me is to create attractive "three dimensional" characters.
    Thank you for your helpful tips. I think I need to observe people around me more carefully before I start writing a story.

  10. It's great if I like the main character, but that's not the same them making the same choices as me.

  11. Great tips! No one likes a two dimensional character. A lot of Roald Dahl's characters were children who had horrible home lives and were orphaned. I think it had something to do with his upbringing. One day I'll try my hand at writing fiction :)