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Monday, May 21, 2007

Writing Advice #7

Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.


Stories like The Collector (which involves a man who kidnaps a woman and stores her in his basement to get her to love him), are strange because the main protagonist is a psychopath. I haven't read this story, but the summary makes me wonder how such a story could work, unless we have a Hannibal Lecter scenario. This writing advice seems complex and simple at the same time. Most often, it seems that your main character is the one you're going to root for, because he's the underdog, the one enduring all the hardships, the one who has to overcome the odds to make it to the goal. Then you've got characters like Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader, the Joker. The bad guys, but they're immmensely evil and immensely popular. People root for Jason and Freddy instead of the teenagers. And these are people with distinct, even ungodly, advantages over their opponents, yet they are still rooted for. So the criteria for creating a character you can root for isn't present. Not in any way I can see.However, I don't think this should be a problem, as 99% of the stories I read have such a character. I think the only real commonalities are that the person is a hero, is funny, is noble, or a sympathetic human. A kindred spirit if you will. If you follow the advice on characterization, creating someone the reader can root for shouldn't be a problem.

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