Creating Likable Characters
Met with my critique group this weekend. Read first part of second chapter of WIP. There are just three of us (our fourth is in Florida for the winter) but we took six hours to go over each other’s writing. I value their input and use quite a bit of what they give me during revision, but there was one area that surprised me.
It’s happened before. Several times. In different manuscripts. Just a couple of months ago,an editor at Samhain said she didn’t like Deena, the main character in A Paris Notebook. Two writer friends read that ms. and neither of them said she was unlikable, so I left Deena alone and sent her off to a contest.
Now my current character, Eva, is getting the same feedback from one of my critique partners. The other one didn’t chime in agreeing, but she did mention ways to soften Eva. The great thing about critique groups (as opposed to uninterested editors who are kindly taking the time to write a personal rejection) is that you can ask them what it is about the character, why they don’t like her. With Deena, she seemed angry for no reason.
I remember a friend mentioning that about the very first story I ever wrote. Why is she so angry? my friend wanted to know. And I don’t have the answer. I’m not an angry person. Well, at least I don’t thing I am. Who knows? Maybe I’m seething underneath and this is the way it comes out…
Anyway, I gotta watch that with my characters. When a certain comment gets said often enough, you know you need to pay attention to it. Through the years, I’ve gathered a few tips on creating likable characters. I need to start using them.
Give her something she’s really good at. Give her something to fight for. If she’s an underdog, make the person oppressing her a bully. Give her a flaw but don’t make it unforgivable. For a lot of romance readers, cheating is unforgivable. Not that Eva cheats. I think her problem is more that the person she’s angry at doesn’t do enough to deserve the anger. He’s not a bully. He’s trying to help. She thinks he’s too pushy, so she pushes back with sharp words.
It’s an easy fix, unlike the missing 8000 words…