Thursday, November 19, 2009

Likeable Characters

I'm doing revisions and I'm stuck...

I'm revising a beginning chapter book. The MC is eight. He wants to buy something that Mom considers to be senseless, so he has to earn the money himself. He has a plan, but day one of summer vacation rolls around and he starts borrowing money. He discovers layaway. He keeps borrowing money, realizes he's hurting the people around him and he's never going to have enough to buy what he covets. He makes changes in his lifestyle, pays everyone back and learns how to conserve and save. Eventually, he has enough money to get his prized item off layaway. He's a better person for the experience.

One of my critiquing buddies got about half way through my manuscript and said she didn't like my MC, he's selfish. I need to do something to make him more likeable. She did keep reading and critiquing. (Thank goodness.)

By the end of the story he's worked hard and learned a lesson about money and himself. He has grown. Does he need to be likeable from the beginning or can he be a self involved little boy who can only focus on his own wants?



  1. Hard to say without reading it, but I think I'll agree with your critter in saying your mc needs to be likeable. I'm not sure if I'd keep reading to when he becomes likeable if I didn't like him at the start. My opinion. Sounds like an interesting story though!

  2. I am on the fence about this. I don't necessarily think he needs to be likeable from the start, especially sincee this sounds like a story of growth and change. You'd lose some of this "revelation" and "maturity" (in the character) if he were a good little angel at the outset.

    Can you pepper in a few things to soften him? Keep him as is, but add a charming quirk or a thread of vulnerability?

    Good luck with it!

    "Blood and Groom" is now in stores!

  3. Hmmm good one-- maybe show more of his internal coflict--that might help...

  4. That critiquer sounds like a real jerk. ;)

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  6. I've had this problem with my stories and let me say...YES! They do need to be likeable even though they are selfish.

    In my middle grade that I'm revising, I've had to work on making my heroine more likeable because I'd failed to do that in earlier novels (and my agent pointed this out.) So, I worked on getting her to be more likeable by showing inner conflict with herself and giving her guilty feelings about her actions. I toned down the mean remarks as well. I put her in situations where you see her caring about someone. She, of course, grew and changed throughout--it was gradual, but you never disliked her even though, YES, she was very selfish in the beginning.

    It's very important to write likeable main characters. And it's so easy to make them unlikeable if they are broken and need changing. I've learned the hard way. Now, I make sure my main characters do something else that would make them likeable all the while they are acting badly in the beginning.

  7. Artemis Fowl is not a likeable character in the beginning. He's a conceited criminal from a family of criminals. But the author puts details in the story that let us know Artemis isn't as evil as he wants everyone to think he is. And those glimpses of humanity are enough to keep us reading, even when we wonder if we should like him.

  8. I'm going to start with...
    Amy--My critiquer did a great job! I'm just kind of stuck with how to make Kyle (new name) more likeable.

    Terry--Perhaps if I can find a way to have Kyle share when he borrows that will make him more likeable.

    Jill--Maybe showing him needing the Heely's to feel better about himself or needing to show off at the pool to feel better about himself would help...

    Christina--I could use self talk to show his insecurities. Thanks

    Amy--My critiquer is usually pretty nice. I heard she was having a bad day...She must have taken it out me.

    LOL--Amy is my dear friend, who is about to have her book Invisible Sister come out, and she critiqued the whole story for me. Aren't I lucky. THANK YOU AMY!!!

    Pam-- That's a great idea! I could have him feel guilty about being selfish.

    Sherrie--Thanks, I definately want Kyle to show growth.

    Thanks everyone. I really appreciate the advice. Have a great weekend!

  9. Give us something to like about him. Show that he just wants what everyone else wants. He may not know the right way to go about getting what he wants at the beginning but if your reader can relate to wanting what you MC wants whether it is love or acceptance or to please someone or to have something of his very own, then you've got a potential emotional hook. Don't know if this helps or not, just my thoughts. Good luck!

  10. Paul-- He wants to be cool, just like very other kid. Thanks. Tomorrow is a new day. I'll attack it in the morning. Thanks for the help. :)