Monday 19 November 2012

What Makes us Like a Character?

What makes you like the main character of a novel?

Is it that they confide in the reader their darkest fears and secrets? That they feel 'real', showing us their insecurities? Or the opposite - do you like a character who is gung ho action? Does it have to be a good combination of the two?

When you are creating a compelling, likeable, sympathetic characters, are there things you think about?

I ask because I have been thinking a lot about character lately. I have read books where I don't necessarily 'like' the main character, but their voice feels so compelling and real, that it draws me in anyway. Yet a main character who I feel for, who speaks my inner fears, who makes me laugh - those stay with me.

So is the question a compelling character, rather than a likeable one?

Interested to know your thoughts.


  1. I guess it depends if the reader can connect in some way. The main character in my books wasn't the most likeable in the first book, but people identified with him and then watched him grow and change over the course of the story.

  2. I like characters that I can admire on some level - even if it's just admiring their gumption. I want to be able to relate to them, but also see them doing things I wouldn't quite have the guts to do myself. ;)

  3. I think your last question is a good one, and it's more about creating "compelling" characters than "likable" ones. I have tremendous respect for writers whose characters I start off as indifferent to, or even actively disliking, and by the end, I'm completely in love and rooting for them!

  4. I think it is about compelling characters. I didn't really like Bella in Twilight, but I read the whole dang series. That said, my favorite characters are the ones that I find compelling and I like. :) Why I like them varies a lot though, just like real people. :)

  5. This is a question I've given myself sleepless nights over, before realising that, if everyone I asked gave me their answer, I'd still be none the wiser because everyone likes different things! Personally, a strong voice wins out for me. I've read books where I've outright hated the characters, but still enjoyed the book because the voice was interesting.

  6. I like characters with depth and a story to tell--not your average Jane Doe cookie cutter--someone with a hearty background. I like characters who are imperfect, too. I want their flaws to mirror mine so I can feel what they are feeling, and go through the story in their eyes.

  7. I like a character to grow throughout the novel. They have to feel real at first, but if they don't show any real growth despite going through the events of the novel, I lose interest in them pretty fast. Watching them make the same mistakes over and over again without drawing any new insight makes me want to punch them in the nose. :D

  8. I don't think they have to be likeable, they just have to be relateable,quirks and all ;)

  9. Alex - interesting, I think growing and changing is important as we follow a character!

    Susan - good answer, I agree strength is important.

    Nicole - very interesting, yes I agree it's good to see people taking that scary step and seeing what happens!

    Thea - yes I think characters can be compelling without always being likeable - a tricky balance I think!

    Rachel - yes Twilight is a good example of a compelling character even when we may not like them!

    Kyra - yes true if you asked everyone you'd never get anyone!

    Randi - yes imperfect I think is important too, so we can recognise those imperfections and like the character in spite of them.

    Laura - yes I agree growth is important, we want to feel that this story has changed them in someway.

    J.A. - relateable is a very good way to put it!

    Thank you everyone, very interesting answers!

  10. strong but not mean, not too much attitude
    knows their faults, sometimes to a fault
    has at least one good friend
    not stupid, i hate a dimwit!
    thats good, and some of these may be part of them that they learn to fix or become aware of...

  11. I'm drawn to characters the opposite of me. Someone who I'd like as a friend even if no one else likes her. =)

  12. Tara - knowing their faults is a very good one. And funny! I must try to be funnier ;)

    E. - yes that's a nice description, someone you'd like a friend. Somebody you want to be in the company of for that book, definitely.

    Thanks both!


Please comment, I'd love to know what you think! :)