A story is nothing without a perfectly crafted main character. The protagonist is who the reader will have to live with for the next 300 pages and experience life with. Without an emotional connection, your reader probably won’t keep reading your book.
So how can you create a character that a reader will love and cheer for?
Make Them Lovable
You can’t write a successful story, if you create a main character everyone hates. The only exception to this would be if your main character were to be the villain. Even then, the villain would need some redeeming qualities to make the reader connect and feel for them.
The last couple seasons of Once Upon a Time have been focused on redeeming their villains and making the audience feel for them. The first to transition was the evil queen who everyone hated in season one. And yet now we cry when we see anything bad happen to her. What changed? They gave us a reason to love her, whereas before they only ever gave us a reason to hate her. Same with Rumplestiltskin. We only came to love him, because Bell was able to see through his villainy and tell the audience we could believe in him too.
That’s why it’s important to stay aware of what aspects of a character you are revealing to your reader. Until your character is shown to be kind, your reader may assume them to be the opposite.
Make Them Do Something Loathsome
Everyone has a bad day. Don’t pretend your protagonist doesn’t. Let them sin, because no one likes a perfect person. Even our heroes have to fall. They make selfish decisions in the heat of the moment. They tell a lie to protect someone they love.
But whatever horrid thing they do, make sure to redeem them before the end of the story. Likely, your character thought they were doing the right thing at that moment but has to suffer the consequences to discover they were wrong.
Give Them Something To Do
No matter how personable and lovable your protagonist is, a reader won’t stick with them
to hear about the character’s daily chores and thoughts about the weather. Not unless they relate to a larger purpose such as a ship captain observing a storm about to hit and needing to come up with an escape plan.
Every protagonist needs their big quest to embark on. Otherwise, a story has no purpose. Give your character a task that will affect their every action until the end of the story when the task is complete.
Engage All The Senses
Having a lovable, flawed character with a purpose is a great start, but there’s one thing that’s still missing: life. Your goal is to make your reader forger that your protagonist isn’t a made up character from your imagination. They have to feel real. And to make them feel real is to provide the sensory details only a living person could have. Make your reader become your character by allowing them into the character’s mind.
What is your character smelling and seeing? What does the air feel like to them? Add sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste to help place your reader in the moment and experience everything alongside your character.
Give Them a Quirk
Characters are often loved and remembered by their odd behaviors. Indiana Jones hates snakes. Jack Sparrow loves rum. Your character could hate country music, giggle when they’re nervous, drive too slow. These littles quirks make characters more realistic and help people connect with them more easily. Whatever it is, make sure you use it often and make it become relative to the plot in some small way. What kinds of quirks can you think of to give to your character?