|WOULD YOU LIKE THIS|
WOMAN AS THE
"I did not care for the main character."
"The Heroine was not very likeable."
"The Heroine is Too Stupid To Live."
"The plot was thin because the Heroine had nothing to make the story work."
"The Heroine acted like a sixteen-year-old."
"The Heroine was a whiner and a loser."
DO YOU LIKE THIS MAN?
WHY?Think about that. More often than not, the low rating concerns the likeability of the main characters. So, what characteristics make a protagonist empathetic? Why does one character resonate with the reader, but another turns her off?
The Main Character has been treated unjustly. She loses her job because of a jealous co-worker; she was jilted at the altar; she was cut out of her father's will; she was physically abandoned, left alone to fend for herself; she is lied to but doesn't know it before it's too late.
This approach can work if we do not see her as a martyr. She must carry on with a brave face.
"Sharon's husband goes through a mid-life crisis, asks for a divorce, and wants to sell the house they've had for 25 years. Although she agrees—what else can she do?—she is angry and heartbroken. Stiffening her spine and lifting her chin, she seeks out a new life…with anger and resentment still burning her heart."
The Protagonist displays a valued trait. She may be very loyal, loving, or courageous. This especially works if she makes or has made a bad choice. We forgive her, if we first see her tending a sick loved one, helping a child, or standing up to a bully for a friend.
"Jeanine dusts off her counseling certificate and works with battered wives. Knowing she made a fatal error by marrying Joel, she tries to settle her life by helping others."
The Protagonist is burdened with inner struggles. She may suffer depression, bitterness, jealousy, resentment, or hate. Perhaps she has shut down her emotions because of one of these reasons, but does not recognize her problem.
"Millie works 24/7, exhausting herself and threatening her health. If only her friend James would leave her alone and stop trying to help. She does not need help from anyone. Her life is under control. If only she could sleep…"
The Protagonist wishes for some basic human need. Perhaps she needs someone to love her, a purpose in life, or acceptance. This works well if we first see her as caring or unselfish.
"Marcia cares for her dying mother for years, laying her own hopes and dreams aside. Now that he mother is gone, Marcia reaches out for acceptance in a world she doesn't understand."
The Protagonist grieves. She has lost a child, a beloved spouse, or her last living relative. A reader won't know why she grieves, but we don't want a bunch of back-story to explain her actions. Instead, we should learn more through the action and plot of the story.
"Jackie lost her baby and husband in one car accident…and she was driving. She meets Hal, and he wants her to live again…but webs of emotions keep her trapped, and even he might not be able to break through."
IS THIS WOMAN LIKEABLE?
I had entered the first chapter of a complete manuscript in a contest, and got shot down. My critique partners did not like my heroine. I liked her…but others read something that made them feel negative toward her. What was wrong with her?
I sent the first chapter to a young woman with a degree in journalism and creative writing. What's wrong with my heroine, my protagonist? What is she doing that turns off readers?
Here's her answer:
Five year-old Nicky tugs at Katherine's jeans leg to get his aunt's attention. Katherine pushes his hand away and says, "Don't do that, Nicky. Wait until I'm finished here."
This is one example of several in which I had Kate speaking to sad little Nicky a little harshly.
My friend said, "Instead of pushing his hand away and scolding, have Kate reach for his hand, hold it, rub her thumb over his, saying, 'Just a minute, Sweetie. I promise we'll get a room with a television.'
I am happy to report I "fixed" Kate, and even though she is insecure about taking Nicky to raise, she is kind and sweet to him. She shows that she loves the little boy very much.
The Stars at Night..a contemporary romance--SOON to be re-released with Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery.
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
Sweethearts of the West-Blog
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