Like- or Dislike- ability

First off, for any educators who are near Bethel, Connecticut, this Friday evening, June 7th, I and Alan Katz, author of many funny books for kids, will be hobnobbing with educators at Byrd’s Books. Details here on the website. I’d love to see you!

On February 27, 2019, Raina wrote, I need some help brainstorming! What are some traits that make a character sympathetic/likable to you, that go beyond just being a good person? (For example, do you like characters who are clever? Brave? Ruthless? Confident?)

And on a different note, what makes you dislike a character? I’m not talking about antiheroes or intentionally “unlikable or antihero characters, but rather things that make you dislike a character because they’re not written well.

Also, how do you have a character grow and overcome their flaws without having those flaws annoy the reader at the beginning? People aren’t perfect and usually change and learn/overcome their flaws throughout life, but I’ve noticed that people often get annoyed and stop reading before that can happen.

And finally, on a much more general note, has anyone else noticed that characters in YA get a *lot* more scrutiny and criticism than those in other age categories? Be too snarky, and you’re “annoying.” Feel hesitation or ambivalence or change your mind about a situation (as any normal person would) and you’re “wishy-washy.” Be too perfect/special in any way and you’re a Mary Sue, make too many mistakes and you’re TSTL (too stupid to live). I have rarely, if ever, seen any reviews of MG books talk about characters like that. (Flat or ineffective characterization, yes, but nothing like this.) Do MG books just happen to have better-written characterizations than YA books, on average? Is this a matter of audience? (I’ve found that a lot of YA reviewers tend to be older teens or young adults (20-30), while MG reviewers tend to be parents reading with their kids or MG-aged kids themselves.) Or are we just holding fictional children and tweens to a different standard than teens?

You responded with a bunch of ideas:

Sarah: I think YA books in the Chick Lit category often portray teenage characters as full of angst, which is difficult to accomplish without making readers roll their eyes. There seems to be a big market for teenage girls who read for the “feels” instead of enriching their minds. Plus, so many YA books set up their characters in a way that allows for a steamy romance by giving them malleable morals or making them clueless to the situations they find themselves in. Though many books like that exist, they do not make up the whole population of YA books. Perhaps people roll up their sleeves when analyzing all YA books now and expect to find artificial motivations behind the characters’ behaviour. If I myself wrote a decent YA novel, I would rather that people give me a chance.

You may be right that we hold teens to a different standard. I think that’s because stories about teens deal with more controversial aspects of society and ethics than books about the lives of children do. If readers disagree with the treatment of these aspects in some YA novels, this may bring them to the conclusion that the characters are designed to be unrealistic to help further a “false” message.

Unfortunately, I have not read a large number of YA novels that exist today, so I may be way off.

Sara (no h): For the question about characters overcoming flaws, what I try to do is make the character realize their flaw and want to overcome it, but fail initially. Good intentions should probably make them sympathetic. And, if they know they have this flaw, they might joke about it in a slightly self-deprecating way, and that self-awareness should also make them less annoying. It’s like Jo in Little Women, who is definitely aware of how bad her temper is, and she wants desperately to change it, but for a while she can’t.

Chrisite V Powell: KM Weiland talks about each character having a Lie, a Want, a ghost, and a Need. The Lie is something that the character believes about the world, and all character flaws are symptoms of it. So, in my current WIP, my character’s Lie is that trusting others is a weakness. Her flaws include hiding emotions, keeping distant from others, running away when she’s uncomfortable, and avoiding new experiences. Her Want is to find a home, both physically and socially. Her ghost is the reason she has her Lie: what past experiences caused her to form her lie. In this case, bullying by her cousins for showing weakness, and a betrayal by her father. The ghost makes her Lie relatable, and her Lie makes her flaws relatable. Her Need is the same as her truth–it’s what she discovers through the story that counteracts the Lie and allows for growth. My character Keita’s Need is that trusting others can be a great strength that empowers her to find her Want.

So, the main way that characters change (still summarizing Weiland) is through rewards and consequences. In the beginning, when you see the character in their normal world, they are rewarded for their lie. However, once the plot gets going, acting on their lie gets punishments and acting on the truth gets rewards. They discover the Truth in the middle of the story and wrestle between the two until the climactic end.

Melissa Mead: Sense of humor is a biggie for me. Not so much snark, but witty or dry humor.

For the second question, I do think it comes down to the difference in audience. Middle-grade (MG) kids are easier to please (and don’t write reviews very often) than teenagers and readers in their twenties. Older reviewers may have gotten past the age of snark. Not, I hasten to add, that all or even most teens and twenty-somethings are snarky. This blog, which is a meanness-free zone and on which, I think, many commenters are teens and twenty-somethings, is proof of that.

Many years ago, I volunteered teaching an after-school writing class at the local middle school. One afternoon, I brought a prompt: to write a self-portrait, not just of the writer’s appearance, but also of her inner self (they were all girls). The ten- and eleven-year olds were very uncomfortable and didn’t want to do it, so I told them to write a portrait of a friend, which they were eager to do. Twelve and over loved it. One said it was the best prompt ever.

I took the difference as revealing a distinct borderline between the eight-to-twelve-year-old set and young adults (YA). Seems to me that young adults are more introspective, middle graders more outward-facing and less critical. Do you guys agree?

Also, fault-finding begets more fault-finding as tit one-ups tat. As soon as a chain of criticism begins it takes a while to run itself out. The YA publishing world may be in a cycle of attack that will end eventually.

Onto the first question.

What makes a character likable is the same as what makes a person likable in real life. Being likable isn’t the same as being virtuous, although when I think about it, I do tend to like people I admire. But there are people I admire whom I distinctly do not like.

I go for people and characters who are relatable, vulnerable, and fun to be around. I’m very fond of people who tell stories on themselves, and I’m with Melissa Mead in that a sense of humor has to be in the mix. We can make a list! I’d put kindness on mine. Here are a few more, but this isn’t an exhaustive list:
∙ Intelligence, at least enough to see around a few corners
∙ Energy
∙ Thoughtfulness
∙ A tendency to see the best side of things
∙ Calmness, or at the very least, an absence of hysteria
∙ Reliableness
∙ Honesty tempered by empathy
∙ Unsentimentality

I’m having trouble stopping. Enough!

Your list may be different–in fact, Raina’s short list is mostly different from mine (brave, ruthless, confident). It will be helpful sometimes to have real people in mind when we make the list and when we craft our characters, the likable and the unlikable ones.

A friend once said to me that the way to make a character likable is to have him save someone. I don’t think that’s all there is to it, but that can nudge a reader in the direction of like. Saving someone will arouse our sympathy.

In an MC, whose thoughts the reader will know, the voice of the character matters in creating likablility. And this is a good spot to bring in the traits from our list to reflect them in our MC’s thoughts. This makes me think of flaws–a likable voice can immunize me from a character’s flaws. If I like being in her company, in her mind, I’ll be on her side, and I’ll root for her to overcome her faults. Say she takes the easy way out to avoid arguments even when she should stand up for herself. If she’s self-aware, as Sara says, I’ll want to stay with her and hope for change.

I agree with Christie V Powell that change usually comes about through actions and consequences, and usually the medicine (the bad outcome) has to be delivered more than once.

As for unlikable, I don’t like people who, when I see them coming, I want to run the other way. I don’t like complainers or people who are endlessly needy, even though I like being helpful. Of course I don’t like people who are cruel or manipulative or evil. We can make another list.

In terms of bad writing, I get annoyed if a character behaves out of character and does for plot reasons what he never ever would do. To me, the writer of that character has committed a writing crime worthy of sentencing by a judge in the High Court of Writing Offenses. Another infraction is writing characters who are so vaguely defined they can do anything and don’t have to be consistent–because who are they?

Here are three prompts:

∙ Your main character is the judge in the High Court of Writing Offenses. Frustrated readers haul in characters who haven’t behaved according to their personalities. Attorneys argue their defense. The characters take the stand. There’s examination and cross-examination. Pick a character that has annoyed you by behaving against his or her nature or a character who is ill-defined. Write the courtroom drama.

∙ Your MC is brave, kind, funny–also whiny and self-centered. She’s preparing to face (in any way you decide) the villain of the story, who has taken her family hostage. Write the scene as she gets ready. Include thoughts, dialogue, and action. Reveal her flaws and make her likable at the same time.

∙ Sometimes it’s hard to find the likability sweet spot. Your MC, out of kindness and sympathy, has befriended a newcomer to the neighborhood, who seemed to otherwise be shaping up to be a picked-on loner. But this new friend turns out to be very high maintenance: clingy, jealous, demanding. Still, your MC is aware of the pain she’ll inflict if she dumps him. The reader does not want the MC to be a doormat and also doesn’t want her to be mean. Write her thoughts about the situation and then the scene in which she takes action.

Have fun, and save what you write!

  1. I like the idea of the courtroom scene, but the character I want to attack is Kylo Ren from Star Wars. Hope you don’t mind. 🙂

  2. I really like the courtroom idea as well! It sounds like a lot of fun. And Kylo Ren would be a good choice…he was kind of intimidating in The Force Awakens but I stopped taking him seriously as a villain after The Last Jedi. For books, I personally would put Eilonwy from the Chronicles of Prydain, or Arren aka Lebannen from the Earthsea Cycle on trial. For movies, San from Princess Mononoke.

    • My biggest problem with Kylo Ren is that he’s inconsistent. Is he a nice character forced to do evil things, or is he a truly evil character? (In my trial scene, he had already been sentenced to a thousand hours of library service recommending better literature, among other things.)

  3. Kit Kat Kitty says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post! The courtroom scene seems so interesting. I can imagine plenty of strange things happening! I hope everyone is doing well. I was just wondering- does anyone have any advice on how to stay interested in a WIP? I’ve heard plenty of advice on how to come up with ideas, but not that much when it comes to picking an idea. I usually have several ideas swirling around in my head at once, and as soon as one gets dull I move onto the next. I would be (and sometimes think I should be) happy, but this makes it difficult to finish anything. I think being able to pick the best idea the first time around would help. I’ve tried waiting them all out to see which one sticks the best, but more ideas come and old ones stay and it’s all a mess.

    • I have the same problem. One story is in my head and I’m sticking with it, then I come up with a great idea for another one and I can’t stay focused.

      • One thing that helps me is to scribble down the key points of the new idea and then put it away in a file for later. Then I can stick with the main one I’m working on at the time. I do have a few ideas on the back burner–one’s a rough draft that needs edited, and I have some short story collection ideas that I work on when I’m stuck on my main story, or when I’m out somewhere and have pen and paper for brainstorming, but my main story needs edits.

    • For picking an idea, I have a really fun thing for you to try: plot webbing! If you don’t know what this is, it’s really easy to do. Write your idea’s starting point(for example, ‘find a magic wand’) in the middle of a piece of paper and circle it. Then figure out what ways the idea could go after that (for example, ‘try casting a spell’ or ‘show it to wizard grandfather’). Write those around the central point and draw lines from the central point to them. From there, you can branch out. Every sub idea can have more sub ideas until you figure out exactly what path you want to take. This will also help you figure out how each story idea could go, and it might help you pick an idea.

      And if that doesn’t keep you from getting bored with the ideas, just do what I do- up the tension. Have two characters fight. Abduct someone. Spring a surprise attack on the good guy forces. Adding more tension and conflict gives me more interest as I go, and it’s always worked for me.

  4. I think you’re right that criticism begets more criticism. It’s a nasty cycle, because once a person starts looking for flaws, they’re sure to find something.
    As for what makes me dislike a character (as in think they’re badly written) I don’t like when the friendship all goes one way; I mean if the main character’s friends are kind and supportive, but the main character is so focused on the plot’s goal that they aren’t kind and supportive back, and the story ends with them achieving their goal but never realizing that they walked all over their friends to do it.
    I recently read a blog post (I’m sorry I can’t say whose -I followed a link and unfortunately forgot to bookmark it) where the writer said (I’m paraphrasing) that the whole `show don’t tell’ advice could be boiled down to `prove it!’
    I don’t know that likable characters have to save someone (or even a small fluffy animal) but If you tell the audience that someone is a good person and don’t back it up with actions the audience won’t believe you -they’ll believe what they see the character doing.

  5. ************************POSSIBLE DIVERSION ALERT*************************************
    I just finished the 65,093-word first draft of my very first novel! And it only took me about ten months, even! Unfortunately, as a first draft, it has problems. One of those is that I have a bunch of sentient, talking, color-changing cats that can turn invisible (really long story there, but they’re essential to the plot.) The tricky thing is that I’ve figured out what personality cats as a whole have, but all my cats sound exactly the same. Any advice for giving cats personalities? (BTW, I have two cats. One is the timidest, sweetest cat you have ever seen, and the other is a complete drama queen. The problem is that I have two personalities and fifteen or so cats.)

    • Gail Carson Levine says:

      I’m allergic to cats, but I’m certain that there’s a world of help for you online from the zillions of cat lovers. You might start by googling “cat personalities.” I bet some cat people are even on the blog. Thoughts, anyone?

    • Kit Kat Kitty says:

      As it turns out, I also have a cat.
      I’m pretty sure she thinks she rules the world, but I love her anyway. I also have dogs, and she would probably attack them if she could actually put effort into it, but she’s too lazy to try. She doesn’t like string toys at all unless she can’t see the string. (That’s just a random fact) She’s really quiet, except when she wants food. She acts like your her favorite, but it turns out it’s just because she wants you to feed her. She’s really patient with me, (A trait not many other animals have) and acts done with life 99% of the time. She likes to cuddle but isn’t a fan of being picked up. To sum it up, she loves to live a life of comfort and keep track of her slave empire (Every human to take care of her) but is also really patient and harmless. She’s also wandered outside and hasn’t even bothered to leave the porch steps.

      As for how to find fifteen different personalities, I would suggest going to the local animal shelter if you can.

      • That’s funny. The timid cat I mentioned loves to play with the SHADOW of the string, rather than the string itself. One time, there was a cardinal in a tree, and he was watching the shadow on the patio instead of the bird. Silly kitty. He’s really quiet, too. We actually do volunteer with the cats at the animal shelter, but there’s usually only time to clean their cages, rather than observing their personalities. My main problem is figuring out which personalities fit for cats.

    • It seems like most of the tips we’ve given for coming up with different character personalities would work with cats as well. You could make a list of traits that cats have, including stereotypical ones, and assign one to each character. You could choose a color or an animal or even a country and have each one act like what reminds you of that thing (it’s not stated, so hopefully no one will guess and get offended).
      Fifteen different personalities is kind of a lot, no matter what species they are. You might have a few that you can tell apart, but I’m guessing that the average reader won’t be able to keep more than, say five or six, straight in their heads.

      • Yeah. It is a lot. Most of them have, like, one or two scenes, but my beta reader said they all seemed identical, and it was hard to keep track of which one was which. My main problem is figuring out which personality traits fit with the idea of being a cat.

      • Thanks! It’s actually the second first draft (There’s an earlier point I stopped at for a while, but my beta reader convinced me to finish the story.) The funny thing is, it was a case of writing the end of the story first and working towards it. Of course, by now, the ending is completely inaccurate, but it made me come up with some plot points in the story itself (including making me HAVE to kill off a couple of characters in the climax, because I’d already said it happened.)

      • I actually do volunteer at an animal shelter, but we just clean the cages, rather than really getting to know them, besides “kittens have a LOT of energy,” which I already knew 🙂

        • Kit Kat Kitty says:

          Do you know if your animal shelter lets you spend time with the animals even if you aren’t volunteering or looking to adopt? I know the shelter I go to allows this. Maybe you could ask?

          • The thing is, by the time we finish cleaning the cages, at least one of us is hungry, so we have to go get lunch. Besides, our schedule is a bit insane, and we always clean the cages before doing the less important stuff. A good idea, but we probably won’t have the time for a while.

  6. Thank you for answering my question, Gail! This is perfect timing, as I’m seriously struggling with making a (different from the original post) character likable. At least he’s not my protagonist this time. I agree with Melissa Mead that humor is a key thing. It’s funny how many fictional characters I didn’t like initially but changed my mind about after reading a bunch of Pinterest memes about them *cough*Kylo Ren*cough*.

    • Oh- Make one a Maine Coon. They’re so loving and affectionate, and have such fascinating vocalizations! If the cats were in a D&D story, there’s probably be a Maine Coon cleric.

      And a vociferous Siamese….

      Oh…Have you ever read the comic Breaking Cat News? Georgia Dunn is GREAT at showing cats’ personalities!

      • I LOVE Breaking Cat News! It’s hilarious! The writer definitely has cats. And the cats are actually all the same type, roughly based on Maine Coons, but bigger, English-speaking, and able to change the color of their fur at will. I can definitely have one being really chatty, though.

      • Speaking of D&D, I bet you could get a ton of ideas by imagining all of the character classes as cats.

        A paladin cat that likes to pounce on every shadow it sees (probably shouting SMITE EVIL in cat), and then sitting there, preening, looking very pleased with itself.

        A rogue cat that creeps along the wall, unable to resist stealing shiny things and/or socks. Also likes to crawl up the curtains and jump out at people from random places.

        A barbarian cat that just runs around the house super hyper, occasionally crashing into things and/or other cats.

        A druid or monk cat that sits staring dramatically out of windows all day.

        A bard cat that tries to cozy up to everything it sees, including inanimate objects.

        A ranger cat that spends its days stalking through the lawn, pouncing on stray leaves and pinecones, and whose owner must keep a careful eye on, lest they sneak away to the wild.

        And of course, all of these: https://geekandsundry.com/kittehs-dungeons-dragons-critical-cute/?gallery=262075#gallery

        On a more general note though, using character creation tools from RPG games can be super helpful when you need to come up with a bunch of characters quickly. They’re designed for quick character builds while still being highly customizable, and a lot of classes are so prevalent in the Fantasy genre that they’re practically universal archetypes.

        • This is great! They’re supposed to be these guerrilla warriors working with the humans to defeat the aliens that have invaded Earth, (REALLY long story there) so some of these quirks would work really well. Believe it or not, I actually don’t play many RPG’s, so I haven’t checked out those character creation tools. They sound really interesting, though.

  7. I just ran some statistics on the novel. 16 chapters, 109 pages in Word 12 point Times New Roman font. 76 named characters; 42 human, 34 cat. Shortest amount of time covered in a single chapter: 2 hours. (The first) Longest amount of time covered in a single chapter: 34 months. (The last.) Average chapter length: 4,067 words. Shortest chapter: 2915 words. (Chapter 8) Longest chapter: 5475 words. (Chapter 13)

    • future_famous_author says:

      That’s cool! Ok, so are you writing you novel on something like Word, Google Docs, or Pages? Something where it’s the size of paper you print out, US Letter sized? If so, actually divide the number of words by about 220 (the number of words on one page in a book I was reading that is the typical size of a novel) and you get the number of pages it would be once made into a novel. You would actually have 295 pages in a novel.

      Sorry, that was just something I did when I realized how long it was taking me to write a book, and how many words there are on a US Letter compared to the page of a novel. I just realized that you had 65,000 words and I only have 26,000 and I already had more than 109 pages (in novel format)…so I was like something’s up.

      So, there you have it, divide how many words you have by 220, and you can see how many pages you actually have! 🙂

      • Thanks for the tip! Word, single spaced, 1-inch margins, I believe. I’ve heard a bunch of different numbers for calculating page numbers, up to 400 words a page. Most likely, I’ll find out how long it is in novel form if I ever have to put it in novel form. 🙂 We can hope.

        • future_famous_author says:

          Hopefully you can get it published and be able to flip through and find the actual last page in the real book! Oh man, I dream about holding a book I’ve written or going to the section in the library where my books are! I’ve got a while to go, but I can only imagine the magical feeling of finally getting published!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Me too! Not literally, though I have had a couple of (mostly useless) dreams about my characters. 🙂

          • I had a dream once where I was sitting in a carriage, watching one of my characters sleep. He woke up, smiled, and said “You should go to sleep too, Missy.” Then I woke up.

          • Song4myKing says:

            Future Famous Author – me too! When my first book idea was new, I thought, wouldn’t it be neat if I picked up a book one day and it was this story and I could read it? And now I think, won’t it be neat one day when I can pick up a book and it’s this story and I wrote it and anyone can read it?

            Melissa – what irony! That’s a great dream!

  8. How do you make a character feel believable? Once you know how to make a person likable or unlikable, how do you make her real? When I’m writing, I usually pick an outward trait to start out with, such as shy or bossy. But not everyone is always bossy, and not everyone is always shy. I’m actually a combination of both. How do you make the character consistent, relatable, and believable?

    • Writing Ballerina says:

      I usually don’t worry about that too much until I’m done the first draft. Then I take one character, comb through, and make everything consistent. I also like to run my characters through personality tests so I can get a better feel for them.
      https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test
      is my favourite — free and very in-depth.

      Keep in mind that the characters your MC (assuming you’re talking about the MC but this will work for any character) is around will affect how they act. When I’m with my closest friends I can be super hyper and silly but when I’m with other people I’m usually more reserved.

      • Enneagram is my favorite system, similar to 16personalities. The free test is here: https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test

        One thing I’ve been doing lately with a couple of writing friends is roleplay. We take turns asking a question each week, and choose which characters will answer. Then we answer as if we were the characters. It can be a lot of fun, as well as good practice to get inside the characters’ heads. Recent questions we’ve done include: What do you do to relax? Are you a night owl or early bird? What’s a skill you don’t have but would like to learn? Some of the questions also are addressed to certain characters. We might say: To the main character’s best friend, or To the character last in alphabetical order, or To the youngest main character.

        • future_famous_author says:

          So are you guys basically pretending that your characters are taking the personality test? That’s super cool! Also makes you think about the things you wouldn’t think about in a character! I’ll totally try that because my characters never seem to be consistent.

  9. Writing Ballerina says:

    *sigh*

    It’s really annoying when you realize some key part in your story needs to be entirely reworked.

    So turns out I cheated my ending and have a “deus ex machina:” when the ending is coincidental and the characters get lucky and their problems are solved at the snap of a finger. it’s generally unsatisfying and really annoying because now I need to fix it.

    Problem is, I don’t know how to fix it.

    Scenario: The evil king and the massive army’s return is looming. The characters have no idea how they’re going to be able to ward them off. Then the king and the army get sick with a fatal disease and problem solved!!

    I know: terrible ending. How do I fix it?

    • If you want to keep the disease solution, you could work on introducing it earlier in the story. Also, if you have the sickness greatly reducing the army’s numbers, rather than killing everyone, that also might make it more believable.

    • Or, if you want to make it even more exciting, have the MC’s army (I’m assuming they have an army, too) get sick too. That way, the good guys are incredibly weakened before what they assume is going to be a humongous battle they’re going to lose. To up the tension even more, you could have them anticipating a sneak attack by the evil king while they’re recovering, and wondering why he doesn’t do it. That way, it doesn’t seem like a deus ex machina, because the MC’s are negatively affected as well.

  10. future_famous_author says:

    I have a question about my plot.

    My WIP is about two superheroes, a girl and a boy. They have known each other really well for four years and sort have crushes on one another. One day, the boy (who does not have powers) finds out the girl has powers and convinces her to be a superhero. They end up finding out her father is trying to kidnap them. They get captured, but all the while the boy is in love with the girl and trying to convince her that they’re not too young (13 & 14) to be in love, but she says they have more important things going on. Is that an entertaining background plot, or is just boring? And how should I end something like that? The book is part of a series, and the two end up married, so I’m not sure if she should kiss him at the end or still be like “we’re too young.” What do you guys think?

    • What if, just when she realized she was interested in him, they got separated for some reason? That would give you an opportunity to explore her feelings in more depth, and, if you do have her kiss him, make it seem less out of the blue.

      • I like that. I think it would work well in this scenario, especially because it also gives the reader time to realize that the girl is starting to like him back and be ready for that.

    • For what it’s worth, my characters do something similar in my series, though they’re a bit older. The love interest is barely mentioned in the first book because the main character is discovering herself. In the second, they become friends. There are hints of romance in the third but it doesn’t take off as a real romance plot until book 4, when she’s just turned 17. I wanted to have the slow build where they could learn to get along as friends before they make anything romantic of it.

      • future_famous_author says:

        Yah, now I’m thinking about getting rid of all the romantic stuff and save that for book two, when they’ve known each other for six years and are sixteen. Being an author is harder than it seems! *laugh*

  11. future_famous_author says:

    That’s a good idea! I actually mentioned that she liked him a few times, and she actually admitted it to him, but then said, “We just can’t let that get in the way, alright? We’re superheroes, and our lives might be in danger. Also, we’re too young to date, or worry about love.” So basically she’s telling him to back off until they’re older, and because they have bigger problems like the fact that her father wants to kidnap her. But, she hasn’t really mentioned her feelings to the reader much, and they care about one another a whole lot more than the average teen cares about their boyfriend/girlfriend, so neither wants to be separated.
    And also I needed a way to make it longer, because the book was going to end way too short, so thank you so much!
    Also sorry if I wrote too much I had to think that out and it helped to write it.

  12. future_famous_author says:

    Okay, for those of you who are like me and either just write for fun or can’t get published yet, whatever the reason, I found (actually my mom found) a website where you can self publish or just print out a book that you have written. I’ve never published one, but I have printed out two. If you’re the write for fun type (which I’m sure writeforfun is) they’re really fun to give as gifts. I write poems so I gave poem books to my family members for Valentine’s Day, and I wrote another one (a novel in verse) for my cousin for her birthday. Anyways, the website is super cool!

  13. future_famous_author says:

    Is it okay to have a character who is scared? I feel like maybe my MC should be braver, being the MC and a superhero and all, but she has only been a superhero for less than a month. I’m not sure if her not wanting to even talk to the villain makes the story boring or what. Eventually (because this is a series) she’ll get over her fear, but should she never have the fears to begin with? Does it make the story boring? Any suggestions?

    • Kit Kat Kitty says:

      I think it depends. Is your character so scared it annoys you as a writer to write her that way? Or is it more of natural fears? If it’s the latter, I think natural fears are fine. (e.g., afraid of villain because they could kill her) Humans are afraid of things to promote survival. Besides, I’ve always defined bravery as facing your fears, not simply having none. And if she’s new to the whole hero thing, she might be scared because it’s something simple and new.
      Every hero I’ve come across is afraid of something, whether it be dying, failing, or losing someone they care about. Besides, if a hero has no fear they might run out into a battle that’d be impossible to win just because they fear nothing, not even dying in a horrible way. A hero should be willing to give their life, (eventually) but running into horrible situations for nothing isn’t the best way to save people.
      If she is afraid to talk to the villain, I think that’s perfectly natural, especially if she’s on the younger side. Even more so if she has no backup. Talking to the villain might mean the final confrontation, and for someone just starting out that can (and probably should) be scary.
      I hope this helps.

      • future_famous_author says:

        That helped a lot! I honestly enjoy writing her that way, because the two boys who were kidnapped with her (best friend and brother) are always comforting her and sticking up for her. Eventually, when she’s older (at the moment she’s thirteen) and has children who also have powers, she’ll be able to face her fears and be more brave, because she has to show her children how to do the same. But for now, she needs Strikening (brother) and Agent Cool (friend) to show her how to do what she’ll show her kids to do; face their fears.
        I just always get nervous my books will be boring and no one will enjoy them because the plot makes no sense, or goes too fast, or my character is a wimp.

        ALSO, is it okay for the MC NOT to save the day?

        • Song4myKing says:

          Interesting question, about the MC not saving the day. It’s one I’ve been thinking about myself. The fact of the matter is that even the strongest real-life heroes sometimes aren’t the ones who save the day, let alone most of us average folk.

          So why do we insist that our MCs always must do so? 1. It feels good. We read, and we ARE the characters for just a little while, so it’s a chance for all of us to be heroes. 2. For the sake of story, we writers deliberately follow the action – so we need a view point character, preferably the one we and the readers know the best, to be present and helping in the final conflict. 3. To prove our character is not a wimp, is important, etc. Especially if the MC is a girl. We want to make sure she’s not falling into the “damsel in distress” trap.

          But I don’t believe at all that our MC needs to save everyone singlehandedly. Some great stories I can think of don’t have just one hero. Each person was vital. No one’s contribution could have stood on its own, or been left out. So that’s one idea, to have the MC help in some small but necessary way. That’s the route I’m going with a story I have in mind. At first, I thought the MC was simply going to be saved by others, that there was no other way out. But I’m finding a way for her to contribute, that no one else would be able to do.

          Back to the reasons our characters do save the day: 1. What we’re really looking for is a satisfying ending, however that works out best in our story. 2. The character might not be the “man of the hour” but he’s still there, still seeing it, still helping the story in some way. 3. There are many ways to show strength, and some of them are quiet and unglamorous.

          I think the biggest thing is that the character isn’t simply passive. He or she is active, internally at least, if not externally.

          That’s my thoughts anyway. What do the rest you think of an MC who doesn’t save the day?

          • It depends on what you call “saving the day”. The MC should solve her own problems, but not necessarily everyone else’s problems. So in the climax of my last book, my main character arrived to the battle in the nick of time and healed her friends so that they could fight instead of fighting herself. So you could argue that her friends saved the day and defeated the enemy, but she solved her problem of needing to trust her friends and of reaching them in time.

      • This is helping me too! In the dragon Cinderella story I’m going to write (I have a couple of short stores that’ll hopefully be expanded into a novel) the MC’s adoptive “mother” and “siblings” hate her. They don’t think of her as part of their family, and completely loathe her. They’ve even tried to kill her a couple of times, they hate her so much. She’s lived with them since a few hours after she hatched, and actually believes that it’s her fault they hate her so much. The only thing she really wants is to be ordinary, to belong. And since she’s the main 3rd person POV character, I’m going to have to show her thoughts while at the same time showing that they’re wrong. The weirdest thing, though? She and her story are my favorites.

      • future_famous_author says:

        Thanks! I was afraid it would sound weird if she was saved…but I guess as long as all problems are solved in a fascinating way, it’s okay!

  14. future_famous_author:

    When you asked “is it okay for the MC NOT to save the day”, did you mean letting the bad guys win or the main character stepping down from the “hero” position and letting someone else be the hero? Either way, it sounds interesting and it would be a great way to subvert the audience’s expectations.

  15. future_famous_author says:

    I meant that the main character steps down from her hero position, but not on purpose. Based on how I think the story will go right now, she never really saves the day or acts like a hero, other people (brother and best friend) do.

    • Writing Ballerina says:

      Just be careful to avoid a “deus ex machina” (which I explained in my question way up there ^ somewhere but I’ll rehash here anyway).

      “Deus ex machina” is Latin for “don’t do this in your story.” Just kidding. It literally means “god from the machine” (and I’ll explain why in a minute). It’s basically when the ending or solution to the book’s main problem doesn’t come from the MC; it comes from either a coincidence or a separate power. (The term “god from the machine” comes from way back when in Greek and Roman plays where the actor who played the god (separate power) would come in (on a machine lift) and divinely solve everyone’s problems.) A deus ex machina basically removes any purpose for the character arc because the character doesn’t fulfill her/himself at the end. It is very unsatisfying and really annoying for us writers who now have to fix it (providing we have one).

      If your MC “steps down” from her hero position, make sure it still fulfills her character arc. For example, if she was a control freak and her arc is learning how to be less of one, then stepping down would fulfill the arc by having the MC mature enough to let someone else do the saving. If it’s just the brother and best friend doing all the actually important stuff, then why is the MC the MC.

      Does this make any sense? I’m really tired and brain-dead right now.

      Tons of people online have a lot of stuff on how to avoid one so if you’re worried your ending might turn into that, a quick Google search can help you stay away from it.

  16. Writing Cat Lover says:

    Mrs. Levine,
    I have a question. How do you make your character’s personality complex yet still simple enough for your reader to understand? My MC’s personality is WAY to simple and boring, but I don’t want to make his personality too complex for my reader to understand. What to do?

  17. Writing Cat Lover says:

    One more question:
    How can I get my character’s personality more complex? I’m new to this writing thing and I’m not too good with personalities yet!😀

    • future_famous_author says:

      So, I know this post is no longer the most recent, but I’m guessing you’re bummed at being left with your question unanswered. But, I’m not really sure how to answer it. So, Writing Cat Lover, what do you mean by complex?

  18. Writing Cat Lover says:

    Well the thing is that though I kind of have the idea of the personality, but I can’t seem to get it to seem complex or show that to my readers….

    • future_famous_author says:

      Do you mean complex as in their personality changes a lot? Maybe you should re-post your question on the most recent post, since I don’t seem to understand. Sorry.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.