Your protagonist is your star in the making!
Authors use their protagonists to tell the story. They use their point of view, their personalities, and their demeanor to help the narrative unfold.
A well-developed protagonist simply makes sense to the reader. Even the bad ones should make sense.
Let’s explore how to write likable characters that help your readers connect with your content.
1. Good Samaritan Method
We see this method quite often in movies. The movie opens, and the protagonist picks up groceries from the ground, helping a grandma that can’t bend down anymore. Or the protagonist is feeding a street dog or defending a kid from the street bullies.
The point is that the reader will immediately think, “Hey, this guy/gal is a good guy!”, therefore, already setting an expectation in mind.
Who doesn’t respect a person who does random acts of kindness?
I think we all still have that soft spot in our hearts, the spot that sees the good intention in humanity.
2. Backstory Method
All memorable characters that you can think of right now have an engaging, extraordinary backstory. It is usually a story of redemption because it is the easiest one to connect to.
People have a need to redeem themselves, to show what they are capable of, and to move mountains. A great backstory can even push the reader to like ‘unlikeable’ characters!
Here are some tips for building compelling backstories before you even begin writing the details of your character:
Decide significant events in the character’s past and work out the details.
Reveal the backstory little by little throughout the book and when needed.
Show and tell – find your balance.
The background story needs to be relevant to the character’s current actions.
Use the backstory to support emotional reactions.
Choose the setting of the background story along with the story at the same time.
3. Getting to Know Method
When your readers get to know and understand your characters, they will connect with them much faster. When your reader understands your protagonists, then they will care more about what happens to them. That is a hook!
You now have an audience emotionally invested in your characters.
4. The Unique Factor
Highlight your character’s uniqueness as early as possible. Your character should be relatable but, at the same time, have something the readers they had for themselves, like a ‘superpower’ of some kind.
Depending on your genre, this uniqueness factor can be anything. It can be a secret magic power, or a fantastic cello player, something that makes the character slightly better than the average person. This will create a certain level of respect for your protagonist as well.
5. The Vulnerability Method
Humans naturally want to save others. We care for a character who is damaged, vulnerable, and need help saving. This is why “orphans” are so prevalent in literature. This is not to imply that orphans are damaged in any way. Still, our human spirit feels an injustice was done, and naturally wants to support the character.
Other characters that fit this profile are protagonists fighting either mental or physical disability or any other hardship. The audience wants to be inspired and witness these characters redeem themselves through the story.
6. Something To Strive For Method
Your characters need goals, something to strive for, something to achieve!
The reader is looking for inspiration; they want to witness the character fight and win. These goals can be anything, from becoming a prominent politician to help people or save the planet from impending doom. Or it can be something more personal, like competing in a dance event and failing multiple times before coming finally winning the first place!
7. The Learn and Grow Method
Just like we [hopefully] learn and grow in real life, the reader expects to take this journey with the main character of the book. The protagonist can be an excellent teacher for the reader.
For example, the great, bestseller, ‘Celestine Prophesy’ by James Redfield, the main character, was on an adventure where he learns to follow the signs from the universe. This lesson frees our character to develop faith. We witness a character grow through his experiences in South America, and the reader grows along with him.
8. The Humor Method
Funny sell and humor is the universal language! If your character can get your reader to laugh there, you have created ‘magic’ using words. Although humor is hard to write, take time, and learn methods that allow you to inject humor and wit in your writing. It will make all the difference.
9. The ‘Realistic’ Character Method
Not all protagonists are superheroes with incredible potential waiting to be unleashed. Some characters can be simple, real people with shortcomings. You can achieve that through a passing confession or by placing your character in scenarios that bring out the character’s weaknesses. This method helps the reader be more forgiving of the character and relate to them. There is also the theory that sometimes, as humans, we crave stories of weaker people because somewhere deep, we feel slightly better about our shortcomings.
The more suggestions you can take from this article, the more likable your protagonist will be for your audience. Word of caution, if you are developing multiple characters, do not use the exact same formula for all.
Have fun creating, and if you know of any other tips that make the character more likable, comment below and let us know!