When you’re writing a story, it’s easy to get carried away with the storyline structure, the plot twists, and the narrative environment. There are so many things to focus on, and we can forget how essential it is to have a well-written main character. Most of the time, this does not necessarily mean making your main character a hero. However, it does mean giving your character a defined goal and a designated personality throughout the story. If the character’s goal or personality changes, you must give the reader a logical reason for it.
What is the main character?
The main character, sometimes called the protagonist, is almost always the character in a story that moves the plot forward. The story centers on them, and usually, their decisions significantly affect the rest of the characters, bringing consequences and creating conflict.
As an audience, we expect the character to have a goal to fulfill and to overcome different adversities in the story. The character’s fate will depend on whether or not they can accomplish their goals, all while growing and changing as a person in the process.
Why should the audience love your main character?
Making the audience love your main character is crucial. The audience will see your story through the main character’s eyes, and if your main character is unlikable, it will be harder for the reader to enjoy the book. It doesn’t matter how good your storyline is or how unpredictable the plot twist is. The audience will not know that if they stop reading! Luckily, we will give you different ways to make the audience love your main character. Even a villain can be likable, and we will show you how.
Ways to make your characters feel real (so the audience can love them)
First, let’s get something out of the way: your character needs to be three-dimensional for the audience to root for them. The main character needs to have a goal, to pursue it, to have convictions. They need to have feelings and emotions like a person would have them. Otherwise, your character is just as helpful as cardboard. Sure, you can make him do everything you want to, but it will feel fake, and your audience will notice it. If you sense your character feels fake, maybe it is, and there are a few ways to fix this.
Watch how people behave or base your character on someone you know. Read movie scripts, or read your favorite books. You will notice some patterns, and you will use them. It’s also helpful to make character sheets. This way, you can set some facts before writing your character in action, and if you forget something about them, you can always have your sheet at hand to check it.
Give your character some flaws
We get it. You want your character to be perfect, especially if you want to write the character as a hero. However, this is far from real life, and since nobody is perfect, you don’t have to try and make your characters that way. If you do, you risk making your character a Mary Sue: an obnoxious type of character that is unlikeable, but for some reason, everything in-universe revolves around them. Don’t make that mistake.
Make them vulnerable
A solemn and stoic character can be interesting, but if that’s the only thing the character has to offer, you’re in trouble.
Maybe your character doesn’t like to show her emotions, and that’s fine; most of the time, she will not be vulnerable because it’s part of her personality. However, you can show the audience how the death of a loved one makes her cry, even in private. Another example of this? Your powerful hero can be afraid of heights because he fell from a great height when he was little.
Giving a character vulnerability is the type of card you can use once in a while because otherwise, your character can seem weak, and in some audiences, it will not make them likable. It will have the opposite effect.
Give the character a goal
One of the most crucial things a character needs to have is a purpose and the conviction to make things to make it happen.
Almost as important is the ability of your character to make decisions for himself and to move the plot. Unless you want to make a character that only reacts to everything that happens in the world, you have to make them proactive.
Make your character relatable
One of the easiest ways to make your audience love your character is to make them relatable. Give your character qualities that many people can identify with, such as being clumsy, shy, or insecure. The audience will see a part of themselves in the character and root for them.
Give your character a unique and interesting personality
Your character should have a unique personality that sets them apart from other characters. This can be accomplished by giving them unique quirks or mannerisms, such as a nervous tick or a habit of always carrying around a particular item. It’s also important to make sure the character has a distinct voice and way of speaking.
Create interesting relationships with other characters
A character’s relationships with other characters can also make them more lovable. If your main character has a best friend or a love interest, show how much they care for each other and how their relationship grows throughout the story. This will make the audience invested in the character’s personal life and relationships.
Make your character funny
People love characters that can make them laugh. If your main character is funny or has a good sense of humor, the audience will enjoy spending time with them. Just make sure the humor is appropriate for the tone of your story and doesn’t take away from the seriousness of the plot.
Give your character a clear goal or purpose
Finally, it’s important to give your character a clear goal or purpose in the story. This will make them more interesting and give the audience a reason to root for them. Whether the goal is to save the world or just to win a school election, make sure it’s something that your audience can understand and relate to.
Ways to make your audience love your main character
Now, getting into what we need to know, there are ways to make your audience love any character you create within your story. Let’s look at those ways!
Make your character say sarcastic comments
Especially powerful with villains, making a character say something witty is a way to make the audience love them. You may be familiar with the “show, don’t tell” motto, and this can be a perfect example of it. Without knowing anything else about a character, the audience will probably like your character if one of the first interactions we see is a sarcastic remark. It can work with stoic characters and joyful ones too!
You still have to be careful, though. If the comment is not clever enough or it’s out of place, it will be awkward, and it can cause a different reaction from the reader.
Make your character an honorable person
You know that stubborn character who wants to keep a promise no matter what? Maybe it was the last wish of her dead brother, or it was something she promised to do before going back to her village. It doesn’t matter what the promise is, but the fact that she doesn’t want to break the promise says more about her character than anything else. You don’t know her, but as you probably have guessed, she has honor.
Making your character an honorable person will make your audience like them because we like genuinely good characters. If you can add some backstory reasons behind the character being so loyal, you already have the perfect combo.
Make your character good with kids
For example, if your main character has a little sister, it can be an excellent way to let the audience know that the character cares for someone. Even the most aloof character will melt your audience’s heart if you show them being good with kids.
If your character does not have little siblings, you can make them interact with animals or, if you want to, a pet. The audience will love to see it.
Make your character the underdog
Maybe your character is weak, or they have something that puts them at a disadvantage. People tend to root for the side most likely to lose, so don’t be surprised when your weakest character has a legion of fans that seem to come out of nowhere.
Bonus points if the character makes fun of his weakness or if they train to become stronger. Your character will have development, and the audience will love to see them shine (or at least try to). This way brings us to…
Make your character aware of their flaws
What happens when you create a weak character that does not do anything to change their situation and is crying all the time? You will unite your audience, but not in the way you expect. Even if people like that do exist in real life, reading about them is exasperating. These characters do nothing to drive the plot, and it’s exhausting seeing someone complain every two pages.
Regardless, if your character is weak, but they know it and want to change it, rest assured that the character will become a readers’ favorite.
Avoid stereotypes about your character
Sometimes when we read about a character, we assume that they will behave in some specific way because of their physical appearance. You can surprise the audience by making your character behave the exact opposite.
Easier to do with characters who don’t talk much or that don’t reveal everything about their personality right away. For example, we are used to the scary characters who like to fight. But what if this person is friendly? Or enjoys spending his days off tending to his garden? You get the point.
Give your character a sad backstory
There is no need to do it for the sake of it since it can cause the opposite effect on the audience. But, when everything else fails, you can make the audience empathize with your main character by giving them a tragic background. It doesn’t need to be anything too drastic, as long as it’s impactful enough for your character, and of course, it makes sense within the story.
If your character is a villain, this is an easy way to make the audience understand their motivations. Why does the villain behave this or that way? There you have your possible answer. Maybe at some point, they were different, and this event made them become the way they are.
Make your character follow a specific personal code
Even if your character is a villain, he needs his principles. What does this mean? Even if his beliefs are inherently bad or wrong, he needs to be willing to fight for their values. A character who is clear about who he is, what he plans to do, and how he will achieve it goes down much better than a character who is not clear about any of this.
Keep in mind your audience will appreciate your character much more if he sticks to his beliefs instead of changing his mind or being easily influenceable. It can also be interesting to put your character in a situation where he has to choose between what he believes in and what’s best for the rest of his team.
After reading these tips, you’ll know how to make your audience love your character. But if you feel like you need more info, we can recommend some books that may also be helpful to you.
K.M. Weiland is an expert in explaining character arcs, and in this book, she describes three different ones you can use for your characters. These arcs are the Negative Change Arc, Positive Change Arc, and Flat Arc.
One of the things we most liked about this book is that she uses examples from books and films to make her point come across. It’s a valuable book that can help you make better characters.
In addition to helping you create better characters, this book will also help you write better stories. Written by Donald Maass, it explains to the reader everything that, according to his own experience, a book must have to be successful. It has eleven chapters that explain everything from the main premise to the plot your future story should have.
One of a kind, The Art of Character by David Corbett is one of those books that cuts the fluff and decides to jump right into what the reader wants to know: how to create memorable characters. We loved this book because it focuses on the character as a whole instead of focusing on those little details that we sometimes get caught up in as writers.
This book provides a step-by-step guide on how to craft compelling stories, including creating complex characters with strong emotional arcs.
This book covers various aspects of character development, such as creating believable and consistent characters, developing character backgrounds, and handling multiple viewpoints.
This book explores how to create characters that resonate with readers on an emotional level, including developing their inner lives, emotional struggles, and relationships with other characters.
While not specifically a writing guide, this classic work on mythology and storytelling can help writers understand the archetypal patterns and themes that underlie many successful character arcs.
Writing a character is challenging in itself. At first, it’s easy to believe that with the character’s physical appearance, personality, and backstory, it’s all done when this is far from the truth. After creating your character, the real test begins: What will your audience think of your character?
Making a likable character is tough but not impossible, and if you follow the tips in this article, it will be easier than you think. Also, remember that you don’t have to make everyone love your character. Some characters are born to be disliked by the audience, and that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing.