July 22, 2014

3 Tips for Writing Likeable Characters @VeronicaBale1 #RLFblog #amwriting

A Noble Deception 
Today's post is by guest author Veronica Bale.
It there's one thing you need to know about yourself as a writer, it's what you do well. As an author of historical romances, I know I'm good at creating real, believable characters. I'm not being arrogant by saying that, it's actually what my readers say in their reviews of my books:
"A warm-blooded historical romance that breathes with the true humanity of its characters (even the secondary ones)." - A Noble Deception
"The H and h are likeable characters that I would enjoy reading more about." - Bride of Dunloch
"A very engaging presentation and characters you're compelled to follow." - Legend of the Mist.
It's something you hear often about your favourite books: the characters are likeable; they are real. But what, exactly, makes a character real? This is unfortunately something that surprisingly few writers (relatively speaking) understand. And that's a shame, because creating memorable characters that readers can identify with is not hard to do.
At the risk of giving a leg up to the competition (that's tongue-in-cheek of course; I always love to help my fellow writers), I'll share a trade secret: the trick to writing real, likeable characters is to spend time on scenes, or parts of scenes, which do absolutely nothing to further your plot.
Please, keep reading this post - I promise, I'm making sense. You might think it's counterproductive to waste time on anything that doesn't further your plot. And if the sheer volume of books out there that don't understand this vital concept attest to anything, it's that many authors would agree with you. But nothing could be further from the truth. By allowing your character these non-plot-advancing sections, in which nothing more than their personalities are front and centre, you make them real to your readers.
Here are three methods you can try to add likeability to your characters.


Ever had a tickle-fight? Ever played keep-away? These kinds of silly moments, especially between your characters, are a great way to show their real sides. They are fun moments, and don't do much to enhance your plot. What they do is enhance the overall quality of your story, though.
Take the Disney movie Tangled as an example. The character of Flynn Ryder is obviously the sexy, smouldering hero we expect of a good fairytale. But what did you think about the scene where Rapunzel wasn't falling for his charms, so he declared it was time to "give her the smoulder?" What did you think when, after she dropped him on his face, he groaned "You broke my smoulder?" Didn't that endear him to you all the more?
Admittedly Tangled is a children's comedy; it's supposed to have silly bits like that to make the audience laugh. But apply the logic I've given you to the romance novels you've read where the characters fell flat. I'm betting that silly moments like this were notably absent.
This is especially prevalent in historical romance novels. Too many authors focus only the sombre mood, the tension borne of historical conflict or the burning lust. But even in a romance novel with tension and strife and desire, your characters can still indulge in a bit of silliness every now and again.


I just had a bantering argument with my husband about whether or not soccer is the least skill-oriented sport played professionally. At the end of the … discussion (putting it mildly) we were no further ahead on the topic than the last time we argued about it.
Everyone banters. What real person doesn't? So, if you want your characters to be real, let them banter. Let them argue and snipe at each other over something that has nothing whatsoever to do with your main storyline. Let them debate about the most ridiculous of things, and let them rage at how pig-headed and stubborn they're each being over something so insignificant. They might end up angry at each other by the end of your chapter, but your readers will end up loving them because of it.

Mild embarrassment

Have you seen the movie Hitch with Will Smith and Eva Mendez? Then you'll probably remember the part where Will Smith's character, Alex Hitchens, has an allergic reaction to shellfish. Okay, now I'll admit that seeing him with a distorted, swollen face did not do this hottie any favours, but how much more attractive did this embarrassing event make him overall? No longer the smooth-talking, suave "Date Doctor," we saw Alex Hitchens' real side. And we loved him for it.
Your characters, too, can benefit from times of mild embarrassment like this. Maybe your hero gets caught belting out some Spice Girls tunes in the shower. Maybe your leading lady falls into a nearby body of water in her best cocktail dress. Whatever it is, embarrassing your characters this way warms them to us and makes them real. Because hey, we've all been there.
Living, breathing characters are so much more than the things they need to do and say to advance your plot. Your characters become real when we see them do and say things that we recognize of ourselves - silly, stupid and embarrassing things. Allow your characters a few unnecessary scenes where their personalities can really come through; let your creativity wander in writing those memorable moments. They serve your plot in no measurable way, but they'll serve your overall story beautifully.
These aren't the only ways to show the real sides of your characters and make them likeable. What other "tricks" can you think of? Weigh in here at Romance Lives Forever and let us know.

Author Bio

Veronica Bale
Veronica Bale is a romance novelist, freelance writer and copyeditor. Her latest book, A Noble Deception, was released June 1st. She graduated from Toronto's York University with a degree in environmental writing, and she writes Scottish historical romance novels with strong heroines and cracking-good love stories.

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  1. I think these are all endearing qualities for characters. Another is the emotional capacity. One of my most beloved characters is Izzorah (Surrender Love). Readers loved how gentle he was and the depth of his love and respect for Luc.

  2. That's an awesome one, Kayelle. The capacity to love deeply is something everyone can connect with, and adds so much depth to your story and characters.

    1. I think in any novel, one of the most important qualities is that a character be likeable. Even the villain should have some qualities that we admire.

  3. Liking the main characters is a must for me in a book, otherwise what's the point in reading about them? And it's very difficult to like a character who isn't 'real'

    1. Excellent point! I've given up on books pretty quickly that have that issue.

  4. Spot on, Hollie, I completely agree. If you don't like the characters you're reading about, it's hard to care about them. And then that makes reading their story pointless, doesn't it? Like Kayelle said, excellent point! : )


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