1. Jaydrian

    Jaydrian New Member

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    Making a Relatable Protagonist

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Jaydrian, Jan 9, 2017.

    I need my protagonist to be relatable; someone the readers will empathize for, and fall in love with. At the same time this character has to have a certain issue that may not be the most relatable thing in the world, but it is the key to my overarching story.

    I've managed to make this issue flow with the character, but this issue could go two ways on affecting the reader, and if they don't hit it off with said protagonist I'm afraid it will evoke much of the emotion in the pages.

    My question to you guys is: How can I add an element as such, while still getting the readers to fall in love with the character as I have? How do I make sure she doesn't become a misunderstood asshole?

    *Opinions and constructive criticism is what I'm asking for; just please don't be a dick about it.*
     
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  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    It's very hard to tell without knowing what the issue is.
     
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  3. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Yeah, it feels too vague as you've explained it. I mean, in general terms, help the readers understand why your character's doing what she's doing without making it feel like you're making excuses for her. But I don't know how to be more specific than that.

    And maybe ease back on your expectations. I've empathized with lots of fictional characters, but I don't think I've ever fallen in love with one.


    ETA: And what is there about being preemptively told not to be a dick that makes me really, really want to be a dick?
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
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  4. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    You may just have to come to terms with this issue - whatever it is - being a divisive one: some people can love the character in spite of it, some can't.
     
  5. Ghost Reflection

    Ghost Reflection Active Member

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    It's very possible to be an ass and still be likeable/relatable. Hon Solo for example. Crossing the unlikable asshole line normally happens when people stop carrying about others and are divisive to get what they want. Hon Solo cared and even had some character growth. Character growth is another thing that can help, but it's a fine line. There comes a point where no matter how much character growth happens, they were such an ass to begin with you still want to see them eaten by the shark.
     
  6. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    I've heard it said that the easiest way of making a character likeable is to make them someone the reader envies: someone the reader wants to be. Taking it further, your character has to have traits that normal everyday people wish they could have. Courage, the willpower to do the right thing, a good conscience, a genuine desire to help others -- all of these things will help an ass hole character turn from just an ass hole to the more lovable, aforementioned Han Solo.
     
  7. Rani99

    Rani99 Member

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    Make your character vulnerable. Make him struggle with his own weeknesses or desires, don't be afraid of letting him fail. Also character flaws, humour, but avoid making your character cruel or whiny. A lot of my favourite characters had lots of flaws, but also what they had was some kind of strenght, and/or humour. Till today I remember Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler characters from " Gone with the Wind " even though I read the novel long time ago. I could not relate to them but they reminded me of two people that I know of. Did they were perfect? Scarlet was self-centered insecure spoiled brat, but due to circumstances she has changed, she became intelligent and independet strong woman. There are other novels, other characters that compelled me, and had lots of flaws, but overcame them because they had to go through something.
    So, as I said, flaws, weaknesses and some kind of challange, maybe these would help make your character more relatable?
     
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  8. Jaydrian

    Jaydrian New Member

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    This was a lot of help, thank you!
     
  9. Oswiecenie

    Oswiecenie Active Member

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    Give them motivation and reasons. That's the most important thing. Even the most hardboiled, cold blooded assassin type of character can become really endearing to the readers when they can appreciate WHY your characters act the way they act/are the way they are.
     
  10. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Member

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    Does it matter?
    Okay, here's my opinion: You can't. If you try to write a person that "readers" will fall in love with - you are limiting yourself to an audience that LIKES that character. For example, I hate Edward Cullen - I hate him with the intensity of a thousand suns. I personally would love to write a fanfic where he eats Bella Swan (like have her for dinner, eat her slowly) and then be tortured by the memory of her horrible death for as long as he lives. However, to a lot of people (and I mean A LOT), he is the perfect character. They love him.

    So, you will be polarizing audiences if you try too hard. If you want an advice - write the character. Not everyone will like the character, but there will be those who would. You cannot expect people to have the same reaction.
     
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  11. texshelters

    texshelters Active Member

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    Like Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment. He is very unlikable in many ways, but readers relate to his struggles nonetheless. Peace, Tex
     
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  12. texshelters

    texshelters Active Member

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    You want the reader to keep reading, so making a novel compelling is more important than whether readers "fall in love." I have a detestable antagonist that readers feel sorry for. That works, because we are not all good nor bad. Peace, Tex
     
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  13. Rani99

    Rani99 Member

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    Exactly. I really liked this character, and then I had to explain to others why I like a character who commited murder. Though it was hard to explain. I just did.
     
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  14. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Member

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    This. Even if the story is character-centric, writing a good narrative is much better than concentrating on making a character "lovable". Write different characters with strengths and weaknesses, and then make them go through a good storyline. The reader will relate to one or many or all - and that's how a reader falls in love with a character. It has nothing to do with the original description. It's what the character goes through in the story and how the character reacts to situations.

    BEST ADVICE!!!
     
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  15. Jaydrian

    Jaydrian New Member

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    Thank you all for your advice :) this has opened my mind a lot to how I should be writing vs how I have been!
     
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  16. NoGoodNobu

    NoGoodNobu Contributor Contributor

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    There was this one (foreign) series I was reading several years or so ago, and it had three main characters.

    One of the three characters was an ass. He was a self-centered, unsympathizing, whiny, entitled ass. While not actively malicious against individuals, he was only aware of his own self interests, petty wants, and emotional turmoil to the point his actions caused harm to all around him.

    Honestly, I greatly disliked this character.

    And then further into the series came a powerful confrontation from the main characters (and various supporting cast) much like an intervention, as his actions were ultimately turning self desustrive in addition to nearly killing one of the other main characters.

    He fought it vehemently, but eventually it got through to him. And he admitted he was an ass, ended up actually apologizing for all his gross misconduct, and over the course of the story he actively worked to change himself and improve, little by little, action by action.

    And now he's as much one of my favourite characters as the first two who were generally likable from the start, maybe more.

    The series then got adapted to a short television series—which in a lot of ways was amazing.

    But they changed his character arch. He was more—sympathetic. His assholery was more understandable, more excusable, given to better motives than his base self interest and entitlement. The misconduct he still performed was shown as a cry for help, and some of his worse actions were altered or wholely removed.

    And I hated the change so much. It rendered the intervention, his ultimate transformation, his long grueling growth in maturity feeling less poignant and just empty. Because he was always a good guy underneath it all. He wasn't really just a selfish dick.

    In making him more "likable" and palatable from the onset, it stole the very charm of his character development that ultimately made him "lovable."

    To be honest, I never suspected that I would grow to love that character so much, particularly from my initial feelings towards him. But the author took me on a journey with him and changed everything.

    I share this because sometimes unrelataeble and likable characters can grow on readers in amazing ways that they can't forsee.

    Write the character you need, ignoring whether or not they're polarizing, whether they are "lovable" from the onset. Just write the story with the character you have—and you can deal with the general likability after, if people you let read after it's complete then say they really never liked the character or didn't want to continue because of him. But who knows, he might be lovable after all.

    That's just my two cents, anyhow
     
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  17. jjwiggin

    jjwiggin Member

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    True. This is the charm of character development. A well-rounded character can turn into a Mary-Sue - I hate Mary-sues. They should all be killed. However, a character that has no excuse for being an ass (like there is no backstory to explain why he turned into an ass in the first place - nothing to make the reader empathize with him), but then goes through experiences that ultimately change him - that's a better read. Like I hate stories that justify why a character was evil - there are just evil characters - no rhyme no reason. They made themselves evil.

    What is that book? It sounds familiar. Sounds like a manga story I once read.
     
  18. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    The term Mary Sue is overused to the point of hilarity. A true Sue powerfully warps the narrative to remove all conflict and excitement. The Sue violates the boundaries of other characters at a whim, and all objective morality in the setting is whatever the Sue deems right or wrong. And even those characters shouldn't die, as some of them are so bad it's awesome.
     
  19. Iogairn

    Iogairn New Member

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    I think one way of finding relatable traits is by looking at how other genres make content relatable. For instance, British comedy is often very self-deprecating. People appreciate it because they can acknowledge the quirks that the comedian is mocking as being shared by themselves. Look at comedians like Peter Kay for example. In fact, one of the most powerful ways of relating to an audience is now done with memes, largely because they are so easy to make and put out: someone thinks of a trait of theirs that is pretty universal, put it on a picture and send it out. Seriously, go on Best of Tumblr or UniLad or whatever kind of large meme page and find 'relatable' content that has a high number of reactions and comments. Think about incorporating those concepts into your character.

    I think it's worth using those because it shows that your character isn't designed around your plot. I think this happens when writers create a fantastic world and/or plot and forget or dislike character development which could impede on either. The fact is, though, people aren't designed around plots, and so a character which is becomes less relatable.
     

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