Whether you are writing nice characters, mean characters, conflicted characters, or fancy free characters, it can be hard sometimes to connect them to your reader. After all, (though we don’t like to admit it) our characters are just scribbles on paper, and we’re supposed to get the readers to treat them like… real people. And people are complicated; we can’t just pull them out of the hat. But what if I told you there were two easy tricks you could use to trick your readers into liking your hero. (At least until they’ve spent enough time with him/her to get to know him/her?
Give your hero friends
I know, most of us writers don’t like giving our heroes anything but bad injuries and worse luck, but that method doesn’t always pay off for us (or them.) Even though you may not like it, giving your hero friends will actually bring them a couple steps closer to engaging your reader, here’s how:
- They will show the reader that there is something to like. If your heroes have friends (and especially if they have history with friends) then your reader will know that they have some redeemable qualities that their friends see, even if the reader can’t.
- They will allow the hero to express feelings in a safe environment. Here’s the thing, people don’t usually say what they’re actually feeling. Of course, that makes developing characters hard. Shortcut? Give them friends. Good, longtime friends. When the two are alone, they’ll feel more comfortable and talk openly (or at least more openly) about how they feel That will allow you to write more believable, more emotional scenes much, much easier.
- They will give the hero positive values (friendship.) Finally, if you are writing an anti-hero who has little or nothing going for him, friendship will be a small positive value you can use to keep your readers attached to your “hopeless” hero.
Give your hero abusive relationships
Now this is more up our alley, isn’t it. Abusive relationships. Difficult childhoods. Traumatic backstories. It’s what heroes are made out of. This is basic character development right here: undeserved misfortune generates pity in the reader, and endears them to the character. Nevertheless, two words of warning are needed:
- Smaller is bigger. Just like when you are dealing with high stakes, making the relationships in a character’s life /too/ awful will make them difficult for your readers to relate too. Fewer of your readers have experienced physically abusive relationships than emotionally abusive ones (thankfully.) All of your readers have, at one point or another, been used through a relationship… and a simple one-sided relationship might ring truest with them. Don’t think that you have to get out the scourge just to get your readers to care.
- Later is better. I know that these are supposed to be shortcuts to help you develop characters for your readers, but tapping into backstory is rarely a good way to pull a character through. Instead of throwing him in an abusive relationship five years ago, make him a victim of one as the story is unfolding. Trials in the present are always more influencing than trials in the past. Make us love your hero for who he is in his current struggles, not who he was back when he was struggling.
Relationships, good or bad, can draw the humanity out of your hero and make them more loveable to your readers. Don’t underestimate the power of your secondary characters to make your hero stronger.
Note: So… I’m like graduating high school this weekend. Cool, right? Well… I’m still trying to figure that out. But what it means is that I’m like super busy (see: this post is three days late) so I’m not going to be able to swing a post next week. :'( Yeah, I’ll be playing catch up with Calculus homework… yay. So… I will see y’all in two weeks! Feel free to drop a comment or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to ask my any writing questions!