Writing Likeable Characters

Posted by August 2nd, 2011

Book Country Twitter Chat (July 14, 2011)

Two authors and editors–Kelley Eskridge and Nicola Griffith–chat with Book Country about how to write likeable characters, whether hero or villain.


Like with real people, all characters are unique–each one has his or her own voice, history, and motivation. And strong characters have even more in common: that is, they are all “likeable.” Whether it’s a character you love or one you love to hate, both flaws and redeeming qualities are necessary to create the essential connection between reader and character. But how do you strike that balance? What can you do to make a reader understand, relate, and care about your hero or your villain?

In our July 14th Twitter Chat, we asked these very questions of Kelley Eskridge (@kelleyeskridge) and Nicola Griffith (@nicolaz), two writers and editors with enough experience and expertise to blow your mind. Kelley is a New York Times Notable science fiction and fantasy author, a screenwriter, and chair of the Clarion West Writers Workshop. Nicola is a Nebula, Tiptree, and multiple Lambda Award-winning author of science fiction, fantasy, crime fiction, and more. But that’s not all–together they also make an unstoppable editorial team, running Sterling Editing, a freelance editorial, mentoring, and coaching service.

Just take a peek at some of the great tips from the chat:

@nicolaz: ‘Likable’ doesn’t mean ‘like what they do’. Means *understand* why they do it.

@kelleyeskridge: Filter every action through character POV. And make every scene have an emotional and action goal.

@mbrucebarton: Dialogue is key to moving character forward while also forwarding action

@ColleenLindsay: Agent @DonMaass has recommended giving your villain one character trait in common with yourself to make him more sympathetic.

@DanielleEBowers: Do things with your villain you’d never dare do in real life, but always wanted to.

@AdamDetritus: one way I remember a prof saying to build at least SYMPATHY is to never have coincidence actually HELP a protag

@kelleyeskridge: Good characters r not one-note songs. Falling from grace=more interesting than never having been there

@nicolaz: Most important ‘never’ is: never make a perfectly good or perfectly bad character.

We’ve also posted the entire transcript as a PDF document here. The PDF will open in your browser and you’ll be able to save it to your computer if you like. You can also get to know your fellow genre fiction lovers by clicking directly on their Twitter handles.

Please note that the chat appears from newest to oldest tweets, so start at the bottom and work your way up.

Thanks to all who participated in this helpful chat!

REMEMBER: Book Country Twitter chats occur every other Thursday night from 9-10 pm EST. Just use the hashtag #bookcountry to participate or follow along. Topics are announced in advance in the Book Country Discussion forums, so be sure to take a look!


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