Character Traits: Part III

Sorry to take so long, but today we’ll add the last part of what makes a good protagonist: one who is likeable, one who is compelling and today’s topic, a character who is redeemable. What is redemption for this lead character? A protagonist can be pretty unlikeable IF there is at least a glimmer of hope that he or she might change those unlikeable ways. How do you create the redeemable character?

  • Make the character vulnerable. A character’s weak points are what make us care the most. Readers want to identify with the story’s character, and the more we identify, the more we believe we are similar to that person. It’s hard to completely hate oneself. Show the character’s vulnerability rather than have your character talk about this flaw. Too much talk makes the character sound like a whiner.
  • Make the character admirable. A reader will only admire your character if you place his/her admirable qualities in conflict. This forces your character to demonstrate a kind of backwards likeability by showing your reader that, for instance, he’s selfish or dishonest, but he’s loyal to the bitter end.

Writing Tip for Today: All the qualities that make a character likeable, compelling or redeemable can and should be adjusted by you the writer until you achieve a balance. By dialing up or down any trait, you can write characters the reader will be forced to stick with to see if that character can survive the plot you have built.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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