Something I’ve been thinking about lately is making the hero and heroine in my stories more likable. A “no brainer,” right?
I mean, I knew you needed to create people readers want to know more about, but I didn’t really “get” how important it is. To quote Blake Snyder who’s made millions of dollars selling screenplays:
“…liking the person we go on the journey with is the single most important element in drawing us into the story.” (pg. xv, Save the Cat, Michael Wiese Prod. California, 2005- an AWESOME book btw)
I’d managed to kick around a few ideas on my own as to how to go about creating likable characters, favoring a “kiss the baby” scene close to the opening line, but then I had my eyes pop last July listening to James Rollins at the RWA 2012 conference. He gave a lecture on how make your thriller more thrilling, and covered a lot of excellent craft points in a clear and concise manner, one of which was ways to build sympathy for characters. He detailed seven–yup 7! He admitted some writing craft techniques are cheezy, but advised us to use them, because they work. (The lecture can be heard on the RWA2012 tapes (#17-067))
Briefly, James Rollin’s seven strategies are:
- make the character good at what they do
- make them funny
- have them treat other people well
- …especially pets, kids, and the elderly
- give them “undeserved misfortune”
- have other people like them
- give them a physical, mental or education handicap – make them an underdog
If I look at some of my favorite heroes I can see the strategies work. For example:
- Harry Potter (#5,6,3,7)
- Jack Reacher (#1,3,4,6)
- Stephanie Plum (#2,3,4,6)
His list works well.
So is my growing knowledge of craft transferring onto the page? I hope so, but only time will tell. Transference in learning always lags behind understanding. A frustrating reality.
Who’s your favorite character and how was he/she made likable? Do you have any strategies to add to the Rollin’s list?