1. The Backward OX
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    The Backward OX Senior Member

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    Help needed with ideas to make a unique character likeable.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by The Backward OX, Mar 29, 2009.

    I’m a rookie at characterisation.

    Does anyone have any good ideas for ways to make readers empathise with this unique, individual character?

    Here’s why he’s unique: He’s a loser. Particularly, he’s behind the eight-ball when it comes to mixing easily with people.

    There’s no point in saying a writer does not create characters like that, that they have to be winners if readers are to like them; this story will hinge around this guy’s difficulties.

    So I need to make readers feel for him.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Just a small smackerel
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    Just a small smackerel Member

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    I think that you've already done that, by making him a loser.

    In order to make a character likeable, for me anyway, you have to make me empathize with him. He needs to be shoved down in the dirt, metaphorically speaking, but also be able to put himself back up again. As a reader, I don't want to read about a character who is always pitying himself. Make him a winner by not always falling prey to the pressures around him.

    Show the readers that he's socially awkward, make us want to be his friend.

    Hope that helps. :love:
     
  3. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    Er.. I hate giving this as advice but I find that if you aren't sure you're going to be able to get a reader to emphathize with your character, write a chapter or two from first p.o.v. then reread it to see if you yourself feel drawn in. If you do, then go back and rewrite it in 3rd p.o.v. (if that's the way you write ... from what I've seen so far on this site, a lot of writers are 3rd p.o.v. writers). The reason I hate giving advice like this is because first person p.o.v. is difficult to write well :p

    ~Lynn
     
  4. Addicted2aa
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    Addicted2aa Senior Member

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    The best way to get a reader to empathize with a character is to show the characters thoughts. Show their reasoning, tell the story how they thought of their life. When they make a decision that people would disagree with like not asking out the cute secretary who keeps dropping hints, have him lament his inability to tell flirting smile from a regular one or his desire not to be too forward. Whatever excuses he uses to hide his fear of rejection, let us hear them and mention them as if they are the truth of the world. A good example is The Death of Ivan Ilych by Tolstoy. Another good example is Choke by Chuck Palahniuk. Both characters are not good people but we are drawn into their lives and even begin to understand their plight.
     
  5. SithLordLB
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    SithLordLB New Member

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    What does your character want? What does he struggle with?

    And this is going to sound like nit-picking, but do you actually think of your character as a loser? If so, you might want to rethink the character some. If you, the writer can't empathize with a character, your readers can't hope to either.
     
  6. Phantasmal Reality
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    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

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    First off, focus on your target audience. Who do you want to empathize with your character? I'll tell you right now that even the most engaging characters have been passed off as "lame" by someone out there. Don't try to please everyone, just focus on what you're trying to say through that character.

    As Addicted2aa already mentioned, the best way to get people behind a character is to give them a glimpse of how they think. How to do that depends a lot on the point of view you choose.

    First person has the advantage of getting a reader really familiar with one character (the one who's p.o.v. you're following) by allowing you to really explore their thoughts, but you loose the ability to use "thought exploring" on the other characters in your story. I personally don't find that much of a limitation, since getting to know those other characters through the main character can be an incredibly endearing thing, but it requires work.

    Third person point of view gives you the ability to use "thought exploring" on everyone. I don't think it has any real disadvantage, but first person just has a way of drawing people behind a single character that third person can't match.

    All that being said, there should be no problem getting people to empathize with a "loser" character. Everybody understands what it's like to be socially awkward at some time or another. Everybody has wrestled with doubts. Everybody has failed before....

    And honestly, those who haven't probably can't empathize with anyone anyway. :-D
     
  7. Chaoslogic
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    Chaoslogic Member

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    Sounds like he's a social outcast. That's not really unique per say; it would be more unique if he were an outcast for a reason. Your focus should be on the change that makes him into a better person at whatever he is bad at. Assuming his life is bad every day, you'll need to introduce something to change his life forever. In movies and books, socially awkward people get a supporting foil (character) to bring out the good in them and show them the ropes of being likeable.

    When you are writing, you may end up chopping off a few pages. That is because the story should begin around the point of change in his life, so I've read. I believe it.

    For some reason, people seem to buy into the stock cliches of Nora Roberts. A few of her books open up with disgruntled women who are not at well with themselves and escape to some far away place.

    Why not write about your character dealing with a sudden breakup? He's thinking about what to eat at home, but his mind isn't really on the food; in between lines about what he's thinking on the surface, he can't understand why that "bitch of a whore" broke up with him. You might be able to get away with being melodramatic; the reason to show that he is torn up on the inside, with a calm and collected exterior. He does not have to be suicidal, but if he is cutting pizza and not at well with himself, he might be fantasizing a murderous use with it. At the same time, he could be well aware that he's out of his mind and that he would never do such a thing. It is a great potential for inner conflict. Maybe introduce his best friend shortly after to push the story along and get the reader away from his inner monologue.

    Does this help?
     
  8. Phantasmal Reality
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    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

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    I agree with Chaoslogic. I am writing a novel that centers around a particular outcast and a drastic change in his life, and I have found that it is best to start the story close to that change. The crux of the story is the character's transformation, after all. Provide enough background to set the stage, and then get into whatever is supposed to happen. :)
     
  9. jammyjimmy
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    jammyjimmy New Member

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    I hope you guys don't mind, but I'm gonna post in the opening paragraphs of a story I wrote recently, where the guy is a loser, and I wrote it so that people would empathise with him.


    Basically the story focusses around John's desire to find his father and give him a load of abuse, but in reality, the story is about John finding out who he is.

    Is that similar to what you had in mind for your loser?

    JJ
    :cool:
     
  10. The Backward OX
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    The Backward OX Senior Member

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    Actually, no.
     
  11. The Backward OX
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    The Backward OX Senior Member

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    What I have in mind is a story about how he copes with life as a loser.
     
  12. The Backward OX
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    The Backward OX Senior Member

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    The crux of your story might be the character's transformation. Mine isn't. Mine is about his life as a loser.
     
  13. jammyjimmy
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    jammyjimmy New Member

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    :D
    I just sprayed pepsi all over my keyboard when I read that! :D
     
  14. Dr. Doctor
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    Dr. Doctor Contributing Member

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    The excerpt you posted was okay, but it was too blunt and one dimensional to really make me care about the character. It didn't really get "into his head" far enough for me to really care at all. You did too much summarizing and too little story-telling.
     
  15. jammyjimmy
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    jammyjimmy New Member

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    (I assume that was directed at me)

    Being new on the site I didn't know how much I would be able to post, or if that was too much, but it's really the opener of a 40,000 word piece.
    What I posted was aimed at setting his background, and the storytelling really begins after his mothers death, so I totally understand where you're coming from.

    The reason I posted that information was to try and show how to make, or rather, how I made 'the loner/loser' a character that people could identify with.
     
  16. Phantasmal Reality
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    Phantasmal Reality Contributing Member

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    In that case, start anywhere I guess. If there is no "point that something happens or changes" though, your story probably won't be very interesting. If you have such a point, consider starting the story near that. If not... good luck. :rolleyes:
     
  17. Chaoslogic
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    Chaoslogic Member

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    It sounds like you want to write a tragedy. Does your protagonist at least have a redeeming quality? He could be the voice of reason in a sea of sin or bad logic. He is ostracized for practicing good when it would be so easy for him to commit evil. The key is to make him redeeming somehow if you want him to be likeable; if this fails, at least give him a really good internal sense of humour (about how bad his life is). The reader might end up thinking: "It's not him that's the loser. Everyone else around him is just a complete, utter asshole." What if he was actually a loser on purpose because he was afraid of being successful and drawing attention to himself. Without realizing it, he is bad at things because he is depressed and fails because he doesn't try very hard to succeed. He thinks he does... but he doesn't. If it is a tragedy, he could realize this problem and correct his mistake... then have an epic fail moment where he ultimately fails in the end... completing his purpose of being a loser. Then the audience would have sympathy for him, if you did it correctly.

    No one likes to see a hero succeed and then fail.
     
  18. x_raichelle_x
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    x_raichelle_x Contributing Member

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    Oooh I thought that story was really interesting! How does it all work out? x
     
  19. g1ng3rsnap9ed
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    g1ng3rsnap9ed Contributing Member

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    Making a character unique is a start towards likeability. America loves underdog stories, which makes the protagonist's loserdom relatable. Even if it doesn't appeal to the mainstream, there'll be hordes of geeks that can relate like myself. :D
     
  20. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Everyone here is probably going to say something tantamount to, "Because he's a loser, people will empathize with him."

    People don't 'relate' to winners, but they do enjoy reading about them. (But then, I've never related to ANY character in ANY book, but I read them, anyway. That tells me a lot about how important it is to have a character whom one can relate to.)
     
  21. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    Likeability is not a word, however; endearing IS a word, and it is, I think, apt.
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's only a small typo: try likability
     
  23. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    You know, it's weird...in American society we focus on the underdogs, the ones that seem to have no chance and then end up making it. In other countries (so I've heard at least), the writing focuses on the people that are already successful. Wonder why that is..

    As for 'losers' being easier to relate to, I think that says more about our country than anything else. I think we can relate to any human being if the writing is done well.

    ~Lynn
     

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