There are ways to ensure, as a writer, you are doing your
part to create an unforgettable main character. More than tricks or steps, I
view the following as food for thought when you’re in the process of
implementing character-building traits. Bonus is that if done well, these
considerations have the ability to serve both the character you’ve created and the reader.
Four Ways to Establish a Connection between The Reader & Your Main
Make Him Sacrifice
Few things reveal a person’s inner goals and passions more
than when they have to give them up for someone or something else. When a character
is required to make a noble or respect worthy sacrifice, they often have to dig
deep. They are perceived as more selfless. And instantly they become more
likable to the reader. And when a character is more likable to the reader, the
reader roots for that person. And when the reader roots for that person, they
want to keep reading. Therein is the ultimate goal of a writer, to incite the
reader to want more.
Make Her Wrestle with
When your main character wars with an internal battle she is
instantly more relatable. Because who hasn’t wrestled with something big in
life—an emotional decision, a time of letting go, a great fear? The reader
feels privileged to be invited on this intimate or vulnerable journey. Being
privy to an internal battle helps the reader feel like they have been trusted with
the inside scoop. When the struggle is conveyed in a non-whiny, though
life-changing manner, the reader will likely crave to know whether the MC works
through the struggle or not.
Make Him Lose
Something or Someone They Love
Cruel, right? Truth is, Mr. MC will reveal a lot about
himself as he reacts to the loss. Encountering someone during a time of loss invokes
empathy from even the most stoic of folk. We all know what it feels like to
endure a heartrending loss. As humans we share an innate curiosity. We like to
surmise what causes some to be resilient and others not so much. We also like
to know whether a loss will push someone to eventually bounce back or sink at a
time like this. The right answer or way to play this isn’t always to have him
bounce back immediately by the way. Which leads me to . . .
Make Her Persevere
This one has brought me to tears during writing sessions. As
writers we have dichotomous souls when it comes to breaking our characters down.
It must be done. It’ll bring the deepest, rawest, most human aspects of them to
the surface. And when this happens the reader becomes engaged. The reader
cringes whenever tragedy after tragedy befalls their beloved character.
However, the victory resulting in stalwart perseverance is that much sweeter because
the reader knows all that the main character has had to suffer through. They’ve
cheered her on, identified with her agony, and when the conflicts have touched
on universal feelings of defeat or discouragement, the reader connects with the
book—the character in a way that few other things can accomplish. Lead your
character to persevere through pain and you create the potential for a beautiful
and memorable bond to form between your MC and the reader.
Can you think of a character who will stay with you forever? Did the
author who created them force him or her to endure any of the above?
I remember the first time I saw my mom crying. She was
bawling, actually. I was in fifth grade. I
took my time walking down our long
lane and wondered if my mom had heard the news. When I met my mom in the
kitchen, I instantly registered her red-rimmed eyes. She clutched me to her
chest and held me in a tight hug. And then she sobbed. The Space Shuttle
Challenger had exploded. Word had traveled fast for the mid-80s. In school we’d
begun to cheer on the first teacher launching into space, then quickly shifted to
figuring out how to mourn the loss and the loss of the crew in such an abrupt transition
A great tragedy.
Growing up, a few other news stories brought my mom to
tears. But that’s the event that stands out to me. Because it seemed so far away. Like something that could never happen
to me or my loved ones.
I find myself reflecting on the first time I witnessed my
mom’s intense reaction to this news story because I’m a mom now. And too many
incidents have caused me to cry since I’ve become a mother. Too many tears.
I bring this up in the aftermath of Christina Grimmie’s
death this weekend, then yesterday, only a day later, a mass shooting at an
Orlando nightclub. Both significant losses occurred in the same city. My girls
and I were rooting for Christina when she sang on The Voice. She mesmerized me when she sang “All of the Stars” with
Ed Sheeran. She had so much more life to live—so many more songs to sing.
I feel a sweeping darkness.
One could argue it’s because we’re more informed now, news
being shoved in our face every second. I believe it’s more than that. And that conversations need to continue. Not
opinion-heavy lambasts. Dialogue with active listening, self-control, a will to
want to change this current state we’re in. Because I can hear the loud voices in
my head already. Gun control. Mental illness. Terrorists. Politics. Let’s be
honest, I’m not only hearing it in my head, it’s all over social media. People
have opinions and they feel entitled to share. Okay, all well and good (or not)
but I’m calling for productive
conversation that carries the potential to lead to change. Not just venting
because we’re all feelings this—this foreboding lack of control.
How do we prevail
against darkness? By exuding light. And we can only do that if we remain
civilized, respectful, open-minded and introspective.
My kids are growing up with these news stories. They aren’t
as unusual or as devastating as they once were. We cannot become numb to this—cannot accept a world where it’s alright
to destroy one another.
Columbine. 9/11. Sandy Hook. It’s gotten much closer to
home. Tragedy no longer feels far away or like something that could never
happen to me or my loved ones.
In our culture, where it seems everything is not as it seems,
it helps to see things for what they really are. This quote caught my
attention. Maybe it’s because fear is such a universal feeling, so pervasive
and potentially destructive. Or debilitating. Or it could be because of the
poignant visual it conjures.
Fear, at first creeping up the spine, then shaking to the
ground. Until eventually you’re able to stare hard at the shiny splinters of
what attempted to pierce—prevent.
Whenever I’m gripped by a certain fear it helps to reflect
upon what I can control. And what I can’t. It helps to seize perspective.