Monday, January 7, 2013
What Makes You Love a Character?
You know that feeling you get when you find a new favorite character? He (or she) suddenly seems like an old friend. You know their strengths, their weaknesses and you love them anyway. You’re ready to stand up beside them and tell those bad guys, “Nuh uh, back off. You mess with this character, you mess with me.”
When does that happen? And what’s a realistic level of reader loyalty after the first book vs. several books into a series?
Harry Potter is maybe the best example of what I mean. After the first book, most of us were probably intrigued by the characters. We liked ‘em, we wanted to know more. But by the third and fourth books, we were stark raving fans (admit it). We were absolutely loyal to Harry, Ron, Hermione and the gang, and we championed their cause as ours.
Yet, it wouldn’t be realistic to expect that level of loyalty at the end of the first book. We’ve only been introduced to the characters at that point. We need time for them to grow on us.
As I’m working on my own series, I find myself wondering how to make that transition, how to make readers love a character a little more in the second book, third book and so on. My gut tells me it just happens naturally if we write dynamic, multi-faceted characters and put them in a variety of challenging situations to allow readers to discover how they react.
But, still, I’m curious.
What makes you latch on to a character? What makes you like them more as you read more? Is there a limit to what an author can accomplish in terms of reader loyalty toward characters in Book One alone?