On the writing boards, I see people worrying about having likeable characters. Here’s the cold, hard truth: characters don’t need to be likeable, overly identifiable, or anything like that….they need to be INTERESTING! Interesting characters will trump likeable characters every single time. Why was Hannibal Lector’s story so popular? He was disgusting. You know the answer…people found him interesting.
I started reading a book called Splintered. It starts off with the girl talking about her bug collection. I don’t like the girl so far and I HATE bugs, but the girl is interesting, so I’ll keep reading.
I’m also reading White Oleander. I have no idea what’s going on. But the MC is interesting and I care about what happens to her, so I’ll keep reading.
Cases & Point
I had a character named Saira. She couldn’t be more boring. I wrote that story six years ago and I realized just last month why it sucks. I blamed a lot of things…the plot fell apart, it was weird, it was out of my element (not really, but I considered everything.) The biggest thing wrong with that story is the one thing that can’t be fixed without a complete overhaul: drywall and dirt are more interesting than Saira.
She’s shy. She’s weird. She’s a college student majoring in psychology. She works weekends at the bookstore and has a crush on a guy name Kevin who can’t remember her name because that’s how boring she is. All facts, but none of these things make her interesting. (Lemme guess, you totally just zoned out right now.)
I have a character named Demarco. He’s a trained assassin. He’s in a toxic, controlling relationship with a beautiful, psychotic woman. He has to decide between his blind loyalty and doing the right thing. THAT guy is interesting.
Problem? Saira is the MC in her story. Demarco is not. His story is a split view point he shares with a girl named Reagan, who despite being likeable, is not very interesting. I like her. But the reason I love the story is because of Demarco. And we spend the first two chapters with Reagan. By the end of chapter 3, the reader will be captivated by the overall story and it won’t matter that she’s not terribly interesting. Problem is…you can’t get people to chapter 3 with Reagan in the way. Her story is interesting (starting with chapter 3 anyway)…but she is not. Sad, but it’s the truth.
In Conclusion: I wish it were as simple as just cutting the first two chapters, but alas, that’s just not the case. Those chapters would be fine if she was more interesting. Also, cutting them would ruin everything. So a (second) overhaul of her POV is on order and I might have to do some plot tweaking as well. If I insist on starting with her, the story needs to be interesting NOW. People read books to learn something or to be entertained. Interesting people are entertaining. Boring people are not.
Side Note: This is actually a common problem I have. (At least I realize it, right?!) I do have stories where everyone is pretty much on equally footing. But I have an equal amount of stories where my MC is getting overshadowed by a secondary viewpoint character or the supporting cast (usually the latter). I can’t think of ONE previous story where my MC actually outshines everyone else without everyone else being boring as toads (which are scary, by the way). Petra in one of my current projects is the only one in all my years of writing. She came to me one bleak winter evening when I was upset about Reagan. I found her fascinating and spent the next month following her around in my head trying to figure out why she breaking into a vault. I liked her so much that I committed my next project to her. (And I never do this.) Since I was busy, she was super patient and gave me small pieces at a time. Then, when I was ready to do some plot work on her story, she scared me and DEMANDED I give her the reigns. We’re both stubborn so there was a scuffle, but ultimately I gave in. Best decision I could have made for the story, too. She’s awesome on chocolate and easily one the most interesting characters I’ve ever had.
P.S. My birthday is Monday. ^_^
Please don’t ask me how old I‘ll be! Lol!