Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rooting for Characters

I recently attended a writing workshop about rooting for characters. The workshop brought lots of questions to my mind as I tried to think of myself in terms of a reader and not a writer. Listening to the workshop presenter's talk made me realize that no matter how wonderful the plot is, if I don't care about the characters in the story, I really don't want to finish the book. How about you? What makes a character sympathetic and makes you want to root for them to reach their goal?

Do you like powerful and attractive characters? Or do you like characters that are down on their luck? Would you like a character that has a physical or mental handicap? What makes you care about the characters in a book? What kind of characters do you like to read about? Tell us about a character that you've read about recently who stands out in your mind. Why did that character resonate with you?


  1. Hi Merrillee:

    For me it is very simple: I want the heroine to be someone I can love and want to marry and the hero to be someone I would proudly like to be myself.

    The reader is mostly likely going to vicariously live in the hero or heroine head for hours. If that is not going to be a pleasant experience, then reading the book won’t be either.

    My current favorite heroine is, Akira, from “Highland Blessings” by Jennifer Hudson Taylor. From my review:

    “Like many romance heroines, Akira is at the center of the love story but unlike most other heroines, she is also at the center of the larger world she lives in. She is also an amazing young woman:

    She’s a healer.
    She’s a teacher.
    She’s a diplomat.
    She’s a swordsman.
    She’s a believer.
    She’s a seeker of peace.

    Akira is all these things with a passion that rings true throughout the entire story. She’s also a real woman. She fears and trembles at the thought of being whipped. She’s deeply hurt when disappointed. In her world she has the beauty of Helen of Troy but unlike Helen she’s fully willing to take up the sword and fight. She has the passion of Joan of Arc but she is also the heroine in a love story and deeply in love with the hero. Akira is one of my all time favorite romance heroines”.

    Akira I love you through time!


  2. Vince, thanks for sharing. Your list is definitely a great list of things that would make any reader root for the heroine.

  3. Oh my, Merrillee.

    It's Monday :). Too early on the week for such a tough question ;).

    I can't explain why I root for a character. It can be all you cited and none or more...

    But it's him or her the secret of how I'll love, hate or devote my time to the story. If I don't bond with a character in a story I don't go further in the reading - why on earth would I? If I don't care to know and like a person, why would I want to spend time with?!

    There's something, somewhere (that the writer puts in words on the first pages) - a gesture, a word, a feeling - and I have no power but to follow the lead (I must say I'm an emotional reader. Really. I can't detach myself enough and think "Hey, Teresa, that's just a book.") - that instantly lock me to that person and make me dedicate to him/her and root as if he/she was a lovely friend.

    I always thought it might freak me to read about characters with disabilities, but in one of your novels I almost ended up ressenting when you bring it up - imagine me reading and pfffing to you "see if I care"- Illogical, right?

    Unlike Vince I don't see me, or wish me, in them. It's more how they teach, and show, me to be a better person through their own example and life experiences

    Does it make any sense? I told it was too early ;) and that's a tough question

  4. I want a character to be like me but stronger.

  5. I want to learn something from the characters that I can use in my own life. This can be something to try harder to do, or something to make sure not to do. This can be something the character goes through similar to an experience I've had, or this can be a personality trait of the character that I also have, or wish I had.

    As far as disabilities in characters go, I'm blind myself, so sometimes I find myself picking blind characters apart. It's completely obvious when an author actually spoke to real blind people, or when they just made stuff up. I'd guess that the same applies to any other disabled character with a disability I'm not as familiar with. I do enjoy characters who are real, not perfect, disability or not.

  6. Teresa, nice to see you here. I think relating to characters is kind of like having a new found friend for as long as you're reading the book. The author does a good job when you forget that you are reading a book. :)

  7. Pamela, as readers we like to be able to relate to the characters.

  8. Kimberly and Abby, I think there is a theme in the posts here. We all want to relate to the characters in some way.


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