Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Falling in Love

I asked my husband at dinner, what's your favorite character in literature? After convincing him that Alfred Sloan ("My years at General Motors") was not what I was looking for, he came up with Faust. He said, "I like characters with whom I can identify."

Granted, I could understand Sloan (my husband is a linear businessman) and not so much Faust (my husband is not that consummate a businessman, selling his soul, etc., but at least he picked a character with hopes and faults; in this instance, faults too great to save his soul.

Creating a sympathetic main character or characters is the writer's biggest challenge. Somewhere between nice and nasty is a good beginning…you want your reader to like her, and yet if the heroine is too nice, your reader will figure that there is no point in reading further. Nothing of interest is going to happen. Too nasty, and the reader will also lose interest. Newspapers have more to offer.

The writer must create is a heroine who knows what she wants, but whose human weaknesses prevent her from achieving them…initially. As a reader we want to be one step ahead of the heroine. We want to see her mistakes, to say, "wait, that's not such a smart move"  And we want to cheer her on when she finally makes the right choice. In the end, we want to identify completely with her, to fall in love a little with her even. And when the book ends, we want to find it hard to say goodbye.


  1. I'd probably have to go with Jo in Little Women as a favorite, but if I think too long about this, I'm sure I could come up with others!

  2. Letting your characters -- no, insisting your characters -- have faults is critical to rooting for the character to win.

  3. This has been something I've been working on as I'm revising- trying to make my mc more likeable. She's grieving the loss of her siblings, so it was easy to focus on the gloom and doom she was feeling, and forget that there were still moments that she needed to laugh.