Heroes and heroines, or your lead character, doesn’t have to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and he doesn’t have to stop speeding bullets with his bare hands, but he darn well better know the difference between right and wrong, and he better be kind to animals, and it sure wouldn’t hurt any if he brushed his teeth regularly… Dean Koontz
Funny but true. There are five traits that you should consider carefully when creating your lead characters.
- Virtue and no I am not saying that your character should be sexually virtuous, nor am i saying he/she can’t drink, smoke or curse. What I am saying, is he/she should be an upright citizen. They should understand right and wrong, good and evil. They should always come down on the side of right. If at all possible they should never do anything illegal, unethical, or immoral. If your hero does kill someone in self defense or by accident, they had better feel really bad about it.
- Competence Your reader doesn’t want to read a book full of idiots, fools, and wimps, unless it’s a comedy, and those idiots, fools, and wimps are funny. Your reader wants a hero who is capable of standing up to a situation. They want a hero who can think on their feet. Most readers would have a difficult time identifying with, or caring for, a hero who is an ineffective, whimpering victim of fate.
- Courage Readers also find it difficult to identify with cowards. This does not mean they have to be brave to the point of foolhardiness. If your hero shows courage, your reader will feel he is worth cheering for.
- Likeability From my perspective this is the most important of the characteristics necessary for a successful hero/heroine. Your character can be virtuous, competent, and courageous, but if he’s proud and arrogant, readers will not identify with him. As a matter of fact, they will dislike him to the point, that they close your book and put it away. You are finished! What makes you like a person? Think about it. Is it their ability to laugh at their self? Is it their acts of kindness? Are they sensitive and caring? Caution-Readers have as much of a problem identifying with a saint as they do with a liar or thief.
- Imperfections Nobodies perfect. We all have issues. By making your character perfect, you may fall into the saint category. Who can identify with that? Readers want characters that are real, three dimensional, who could be the neighbor next door. Think hard and choose you flaws wisely. You do not want anything so terrible that it turns your reader against your hero/heroine.
Note- In a genre novel you can get away with an almost flawless hero/heroine, but mainstream readers demand more. With this being said, flaws make your characters more interesting and relatable. It’s your story. You decide.