I have a secret favorite past time I'm not sure I've ever shared with anyone.
Okay, here it is:
I have an insane curiosity for reading readers reviews of books, both on Amazon and on Goodreads.
They are intriguing, especially the "bad" reviews. BOY can those things be brutal.
Now, I'm not obsessed with this, but as I ready myself for the onslaught of "reviews" both good (hopefully!) and bad (I'm a big girl!) it helps me brace for the experience.
Many times, the "complaints" are in direct opposition to the "good" reviews, which makes it even more interesting.
There are so many other fun notes about reviews to post, but today, I want to focus on a fun difference of opinion I see quite a bit.
It's the fun Love/Hate relationship readers have with our characters.
An example in a debut novel by one of my SUPER awesome author friends.
Yet, she also go another one with this statement, "Bethany is a wonderful multifaceted character that I easily identified with..."
And even in my very small handful of reviews I've already received on my to-be-published novel, Sandwich, with a Side of Romance, I've seen differences in opinions.
"Maddie was more annoying than adorable"
"I loved the conversations Maddie had with God. (I’ve had many similar ones with Him myself.) These conversations are where most of the inspiration comes from in this story; Maddie’s ‘requests’ and God’s answers. Her requests were a bit cheeky yet realistic, His answers were as you’d expect. This was definitely a light and refreshing way to give the reader some food for thought."
But these difference in "relating" or "liking" our characters isn't relegated to debut novelists like Katie and I.
Even the amazing Francine Rivers has reviews that talk about how her characters are "flat", yet has hundreds to thousands of reviews gushing over her phenomenal writing and telling how her characters have impacted the reader's lives.
HERE is the thing about characters in relation to our readers-- Get ready for this, it's a really deep revelation!
Some readers will love them.
And some readers will hate them.
I know. Profound, huh.
So what do we do as writers? We can't please everyone, so how do we know WHO to please, and how do we make sure we please as many as possible.
1.) GOD TRUMPS ALL. At least for me, God is my 1st and most important audience. This doesn't mean my character has to be perfect or overly religious or anything like that. But God can use our flawed characters for his glory, and my prayer is always that God is pleased with my writing.
2.) DO YOU LIKE YOUR CHARACTER? This almost goes without saying, but sometimes it's easy to get wrapped up in your character that you need to take a step back and make sure you, the writer, would love/relate to the character if you were the reader.
3.) KNOW YOUR GENRE. Different genres have different "requirements" so to speak about characters. Someone who writes Amish romance will have a slightly different set of readers to please than someone who writes romantic comedy.
4.) DON'T FORGET YOUR MOTIVATION. You can still have flawed, realistic characters in your novels... as long as they have appropriate motivation for their flaws and actions. We need to understand why they are how they are, and be able to root for them to conquer their flaws.
5.) REDEEM YOUR CHARACTER. For every annoying/unlikable trait your character has, add one or two endearing ones. The more unlikable the trait, the more endearing ones they need. It is easy to get so caught up in making a realistic character with flaws that people can relate to that we forget that our readers need to be able to root for our main characters.
Not everyone is going to like all of your characters. That's a fact we need to accept right now. But that doesn't mean we don't try to make our characters capture as many readers' hearts as possible.
And for the record... the readers who didn't like them? They aren't wrong. It is their opinion... they have their own personality that draws them toward certain types of characters. Have you ever read a book that had rave reviews and you were like, "Eh, yeah, not my cup of tea"? I think we all have.
The customer is always right... and so is the reader!
Discussion: What are some flawed characters you've read that you have still loved? What are some FAVORITE characters in books you've read? How do YOU try to write dynamic characters who will click with the most readers possible?