Have you ever been told that your main character comes across as rude, not relatable, or emotionless? This problem can be a common pitfall for new writers. If you’ve finished writing a book, then congratulations! If you’re in the middle of writing a book, then don’t stop now. But if you want to figure out how to make your protagonist more relatable, then keep reading.
The scenario of an emotionless protagonist can happen when new writers try to make their main character appear tough and strong on the page. And I can’t fault the writer for that. I love a strong hero or heroine! But many times, in efforts to make the hero comes across as tough, a writer can forget to input emotion.
Every good protagonist has relatable flaws and feelings that the reader can understand. Sometimes a writer might ask themselves, “How would I react?” This question might influence the author's writing negatively by creating a protagonist that reacts like them, instead of letting the character react like the character. Remember, the protagonist needs ways to grow and improve in the story (also called a character arc), which means they will have flaws and won’t be perfect or always have the correct answers to every problem that arises.
Input Internal Dialogue
If your protagonist makes knee-jerk decisions repeatedly, then (unless it’s part of the character arc) add internal dialogue. This addition helps the reader to understand why the protagonist reacts to a particular situation the way they do, so the reaction doesn’t come out of left field. And I’m not talking about adding a line or two here and there, add the protagonist’s thoughts more often throughout the story. Let the reader “see” inside the protagonist’s head regularly
Is Your Character Unreasonably Angry?
Is your main character always angry? Are they angry for the right reasons? For example: Is your teenage protagonist angry at their mom for denying them the chance to go to the dance, or are they angry at their mom simply because they hate all adults? I guess either reasoning would work, but if your main character is always angry and reacts to other characters with aggressive responses and behavior, then chances are, you need to dial it back. Or at least provide solid reasoning behind your protagonist’s attitude.
It can be easy for a writer to know why the protagonist dislikes “Jane,” who has perfect hair and glistening white teeth. Still, unless you let the reader know a piece of the backstory of why the protagonist calls Jane the B**** word, then the rude behavior can cause the reader to dislike the rude protagonist. But if the reader knows that Jane made fun of the protagonist in front of the entire cafeteria in third grade, then the reader can hate Jane just as much as the protagonist does (making the protagonist relatable).
Here’s another short blog post about a similar situation: I Hate Your Protagonist! Want to Know Why?
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