Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Rooting Interest

Pondering lately on what makes people like some stories more than others, I was directed to an article in the LA Times (thanks Th.) and it hit me on why most people like or don't like most stories.

We as writers, are of course looking for a new take, a great twist, something that will make our story stand out from everyone else. We may try edgy things or new combinations that haven't been done before-in fact that's my next project-a new combination that I am not aware of having been done before-(at least to the best of my knowledge and googling)
BUT
There are some things that work and some things that don't for commercial success. I am absolutely convinced that we as readers/audience want to have characters we can root for, care about, and relate too. I won't matter if we come up with a great twist, new take or edgy combination that has never been done, some fundamentals in human nature must be met for people to care about your story. People have to like at least one person in your story-if not more-even villains. Who doesn't love Darth Vader? Who doesn't feel pity for Gollum? Who isn't spellbound by Dracula?

I recently helped judge a whole passel of stories for a contest and the single biggest reason most of the writers didn't score higher was because the characters were weak and didn't make the reader root for them enough. You have to MAKE the reader care about the people in your tale.

Great events/twists make great stories but we love the story if we love the characters.
Pics by the rocking Larry Elmore

16 comments:

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

very true, fascinating, and a bit scary. I hope I am successful and in making my characters likeable.

Amalia T. said...

Agreed! I am character driven anyway, so if I can't connect to a character, and feel sympathy for them, forget it. And the characters I love of my own are the ones that I've tortured and feel just terrible for having done so.

Charles Gramlich said...

Characters is always what has attracted me to fiction. I like a good story, but if there's not something special about the character I just can't usually push myself forward through the book.

Ann Best said...

All true! Characters are where it's at. Think Dickens great characters, for one. And what great pictures you've posted to illustrate your point.

Krista said...

Was this the Monsters & Mormons contest? I'm very curious about what others came up with. I wondered what I might do with that. I only got as far as wondering.
Very good post on characters. Characters do it for me.

David J. West said...

Tamara-I'm not worried because you are so likable.

Amalia-suffering makes for good characters.

Charles-true our favorites are people we will want to follow on adventures again and again.

Thanks Ann-Ive been waiting awhile to post those pics of fave hero's and villains for some time.

Krista-no, it was for Storymakers, I have yet to complete my own tale for Monsters and Mormons-but it is coming.

Kim Coates said...

It's so true. I always remember the character more then the story itself. That puts a lot of pressure on us as writers, doesn't it. But that's the way it has to be. I want to create memorable characters!

David J. West said...

Kim-yes-so how soon are we going to see your Nauvoo related work?

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Right on! I have to like the character to follow them through three to four hundred pages. There's one bestselling author that most everyone in the nation buys his books, and I've tried and tried to read him, but his protagonists are whinny. I can put up with it if the character learns and grows, but after a hundred pages and he's still whining I close the book. Give me a hero and I'm there.

David J. West said...

Now I'm curious Kathy-but I doubt its anyone I read because I can't put up with a whiny protag either.

Th. said...

.

This is why I want to see that movie. Because I wonder if the "likability" of the characters simply doesn't meet the typical horrorphiles requirements. Because, seriously, how likable are many slasher-flick heroes? You know, in my opinion?

David J. West said...

Th.-I have no idea, I was honestly surprised when I saw Brody was doing it-just not what I expected-not that his roles are expected I suppose.

Angie said...

Love those pictures. You are so right about characters. That's one of the number one reasons that stories get rejected at Mindflights.

David J. West said...

Interesting Angie-I have considered subbing to Mindflights but just haven't found the right piece.

M. Gray said...

Ooo, I like these pics.

David J. West said...

Thanks Mary-I've been saving em for quite awhile til I found the right post to partner em with.