“Why should I care about the main character?”
This is a comment I received a few weeks ago on one of my stories. It was for Clan of Ash to be precise. For a while, and even now, the comment still lingers in the back of my head. I’ve read plenty of articles and blogs, over the years, on tips/advice/questions on how to make your readers care. A few of these were:
-Don’t make your character perfect. He/she needs a flaw.
-Make them relatable.
-What does your character want?
-What are the obstacles?
-Is he/she an underdog?
Even then, I never thought that I would be asked that question (why should I care?) It took me by surprised and left me reeling. I’d thought it was clear. But if I really think about it, maybe, I wasn’t as clear as I thought. It was clear to me but not the reader. I set up my main character with an impossible task and he grits his teeth and does because otherwise, they’ll kill him.
One of the most important things I came to realize is, it’s a process. Sure, hooking your readers and making a likable/relatable character at eh beginning is important. However, you have to keep “working” on your character throughout the story. Make your readers worry about them. Make them root for them.
There’s no ‘one way’ to do this. I remember some articles talked about having tension and conflict, twist and turns, in your story helps develop your character. It does and that way, readers see your characters struggle against the odds/ obstacles in order to reach their goal.
The key word is struggle. Nothing in life is ever easy or simple. Characters in stories shouldn’t have it easy. Otherwise, what’s the point of having the story? There would be no story. In essence, that’s what I need to keep in mind. I need to present the problem to the readers and have them “watch” the character try to resolve this problem.
As mentioned above, there’s no clear way to do this. There’s no ‘how-to’ or step-by-step guide. Sometimes, you wing it and try to have it all made sense. Luckily, there are beta readers out there that can point all the stuff you missed.