An unloveable hero? Oops…

Now that the feedback for my first draft is starting to trickle in, I am faced with the stark reality that my hero is a little hard to get attached to. Clang.

Picture 1I guess if there’s one aspect that can bring a story crashing down in flames, it’s lack of love for the protagonist. Imagine if we couldn’t care less whether Harry Potter became a wizard or a plumber? How would Star Wars work out if Luke was a complete git? And I’m not even going to think about George.W. Bush instead of Jed Bartlett in the West Wing.

The thing is, I already suspected that my hero, Lieutenant Horatio Lee – while being loyal, clever, handsome and brave – was also a little too… distant. I was concerned that we didn’t care enough about him to really give a hoot about his predicament, his welfare or his desires and, as such, the story didn’t quite lift off.

I’ll admit that I embarked on this whole undertaking without much of a plot-line in my head and just winged it. Yes, yes, I’m sure many out there are screaming literary blasphemy right now, but to be frank; my method worked really well. I feel I have an action packed, politically-charged plot that rattles along quite nicely, thank you. Nevertheless, the big however is character development. Nay, character empathy. The audience need to be more intrigued about the characters themselves and not just the story that unfolds around them; they need to feel closer to the personalities that appear in the book.

So now I have to go and make you all actually care about the people in my book. How irritating. We have to love Lieutenant Lee, loath Commander Riggs, respect Lord Blaythwaite, fear Sir Horace and root for Susan Lee. But how do I make that happen? Or, more to the point, how do I make that happen without introducing too much back-story?

And what makes people care anyway? Flaws? Vulnerabilities? Idiosyncrasies? Sense of humour? Good looks?

As I write this, I’m thinking that it’s all of the above and probably more. I’m also thinking as I write this that I should stop writing this and start on a bit of character development. Okay then. (But I’d rather be writing a battle scene, if I’m honest).

Has anyone else got to this first draft stage and realised their characters need help? Are there worse things that can need fixing at this stage than this? Please tell me yes…

Thanks for reading.

P.S.  Do I come across as a little cross? Well, I am, but only with myself 🙂

P.S.S. Is it seen as bad form to use emoticons in a serious blog?

P.S.S.S. Is this even a serious blog?

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4 comments on “An unloveable hero? Oops…

  1. Oh man, this exact thing happened to me in my first draft. Here I was, the proud owner of a huge book that I actually wrote, and people just….did not like my main character. It wasn’t even that she was neutral. Readers found her legitimately unlikable . It was kind of hard to hear, so I definitely sympathize. But the good news is, you can make it better. So far I’ve gotten better reactions from my second draft version of my heroine, so I’m hoping it’s all going to get better from here. (: Good luck!

    P.S. I used an emoticon in a serious comment. We’re both in so much trouble! Haha.

    • gpeynon says:

      Ah, that’s good to hear… well, not good to hear, but you know what I mean: I’m glad it’s not just me. Thankfully my hero isn’t unlikable, but it still creates more work. However, in my search to develop him, I may have found a little sub-plot, father/son thing going on, so it’s not all bad I s’pose. Gonna see where that goes.

      This is why we give out our first draft, eh? Love it.

      Thanks so much for commenting (and offering support) 🙂

  2. Issy says:

    Give him a beard;-)
    No, seriously, I think a back story which explains his purpose would work. Why should we care if he’s successful? Who would benefit? Is there a greater outcome? Or what would be at stake if he doesn’t? (Would the galaxy survive without Luke confronting the dark side?)
    Well, maybe a beard would help too.

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