It’s the last of our posts about making characters (or at least the last one of r a bit). Check out the tags to see the others.
Orson Scott Card (citation down below) has a list of ‘devices’ that he says makes readers love characters. I’m going to run them down here, because I’m running out of time in my week!
First off: Physical Attractiveness.
- The hot factor.: If other characters are attracted to them, we will be too, he says.
- Sometimes this can make your readers hate the character so be careful. She/he shouldn’t be annoyingly attractive. That’s dull.
You think I’m dull?
No, Harry, never you. You eat have oat milk in your fridge, bananas in your freezer, speak English, Cantonese, and Spanish and are an amazing dancer? How could that be dull?
- – We root for the victim. We also can eventually show how the victim is no longer a victim in our awesome story arch.
- – We root for the savior. We want Petunia to rescue the dog/cat/alien/hamster/boy.
- – We root for the sacrificer. It’s hard not to love someone who suffers to make the world better.
I totally have the altruistic awesomeness down pat.
We root for the character who wants something, who goes after a dream. The bigger the want/dream the more we tend to root
We like the character who is brave, who takes risks to do what needs to be done (if those risks are morally cool).
Those Who Have ‘Tude
How a character feels about herself or others impacts how we feel about the character.
We also tend to like characters who are clever, who volunteer, who are dependable.
And we also like characters with a little quirk – that imperfection or tic that makes them an individual.
Think about Ron in Harry Potter. He’s loyal as all heck. He takes risks to do what’s right (steals parents’ car, goes in off-limit places).
He is brave but he freaks about spiders.
He is smart in certain ways (outwits the magic chess board), but he is flawed too. He’s a bit jealous. He’s a bit insecure. He’s a bit lazy when it comes to studying.
Yet we love him. His flaws and quirks and reactions and choices make him adorable and one of the most loved characters in one of the most popular children’s books ever.
Yes, it is I, Ron Weasley
Card also gives a quick run-down on what we don’t like in characters:
- Hurting another character on purpose, especially if the character likes causing pain
- Killing someone for selfish reasons
- Being self serving
- Breaking promises
- Super big words/formal speech in dialogue (We usually give this to the bad guys. I actually give it to a good guy, cause I’m a rule breaker like that)
- Being totally psycho in a bad way
- Attitude – whining too much, complaining too much, lack of humor, etc….
Card, Orson Scott. CHARACTERS AND VIEWPOINTS. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books
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