Welcome to Twitter Treasure Thursday! So, as many of you know, I optioned a YA novel to a producer in Hollywood in 2011. Back then, I was still new to the writing scene. Everyday, I learned a new lesson, achieved a new skill, and had an “Ah-ha!” moment. I hadn’t even shared my work with anyone outside of my family until those executives in LA asked to read it…Which is probably why my manuscript never made it off the cutting room floor.
I didn’t know how to fix the problems agents and publishers pointed out to me. And I especially didn’t know how to fix its main flaw: Unlikable characters.
Over and over again, I heard things like, “I just don’t love your characters” and “I like your story, but not your characters” and “I need to care about your characters, and I don’t.” These comments hurt every time I heard them because I liked my characters and I cared about them. But I couldn’t figure out how to get others to feel the same way.
In the end, this issue was my manuscript’s greatest downfall.
Since then, I’ve made it my mission to write strong characters that readers care about (even if they despise them), and I think you need to you as well. Because, trust me when I say, no matter how great the rest of your story is, unlikable characters will ruin it.
So, today I thought I’d share this article from author, Jody Hedlund: How to Keep Readers From Hating Your Characters. It offers some great advice that will keep you from making the same mistakes I made with my optioned manuscript.
2. Make sure the reader understands the cause of the flaws. One way to generate reader empathy for our character’s flaw is make the negative trait a result of something that the character didn’t choose to happen to her. For example, maybe she was abused or teased or rejected at some point in her life. When we share the history that drives the negative traits, readers will be more forgiving of the negativity.
3. Never give the character an unforgivable trait or action. We might have made our character likeable, but then she does something (or several things) that the reader finds unforgivable, completely unlikeable, and irredeemable. The event or action leaves a bad taste in the reader’s mouth and often they’re unable to resume their fullest love of our character after that.