Everybody Hates Them Nobody Likes Them – How To Skip The Worms And Brainstorm Your Characters

Unlikable Character Syndrome is a painful and often devastating condition. It causes rejection, tears and multiple pounds of chocolate.

Sometimes our characters are unlikable, even to us. I had one such character a while back that irritated me on a daily basis. I just couldn’t connect for some reason.

Truth was, I just plain didn’t understand her. If I didn’t like or understand her, how could anyone else?

I had Unlikable Character Syndrome. After one rejection letter, tears and of course lots of chocolate I began to feel better. Probably was the chocolate, but I decided to get help.

We shall call this character Alma for now. No, that’s not her name. Alma had issues, she liked chocolate just like me and stood up for the underdog. Still she fell flat.

Why? I didn’t understand her motivations and core self. What made her who she was?

Here are some steps I took to make Alma more likable and cure Unlikable Character Syndrome in my novel:

*I found a picture of my Alma on the internet and printed it out.

*I followed the interview process for my character at My Book Therapy’s website. This particular step made a huge difference. Discovering the lie my character believed shaped her motivations and actions for the story.

*I made a list of all the reasons I would be Alma’s friend in real life. I took this list and used it to weave in character traits that are admirable early in the story.

*For every flaw or bad thing shared about Alma in my book, I made sure there were at least 2 positive things about her to offset it.

*I made her empathetic by showing that she faces live just like me.

*Early in the story I show her compassion and courage.

*I give her a few unexpected characteristics that would make a reader smile.

*Use situations to show her vulnerability early in my novel.

*Most important, I determined the kind of chocolate she loved. What? Don’t you think that is important?

What qualities do you like in a character?


About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

8 thoughts on “Everybody Hates Them Nobody Likes Them – How To Skip The Worms And Brainstorm Your Characters

  1. Just in time! Working on my characters now and I have one that’s giving me a little trouble. So printing this out NOW. Thanks Michelle!

  2. clearshoals says:

    I had a character who was unlikable. She meant well, but she had issues that turned off crit partners and, well, anyone who read the first drafts. I carefully explained that if I changed those qualities, I lost the story, but for some reason, that didn’t work.

    It took a while, but I finally found a solution (this was before I joined MBT). I knew my character’s heart but no one else did, so I changed the setup at the beginning. Doing so allowed me to show her vulnerability and compassion, which then spiked the likeability meter in a positive direction.

    So what qualities do I like in a character? I’m not fond of the Sampson type–loud, arrogant, boastful, overconfident in God-given abilities. But I also don’t like a Gideon–skittish to the point of operating behind a screen. I prefer characters whose strengths have been tested by their trials, leaving behind a quiet vulnerability that will be challenged in the pages of the story. A light, dry humor also helps.

  3. dtopliff says:

    I don’t know where I can find a working pic of my historical heroine (but wil try. I’m definitely in the same boat & this is helpful. I don’t like chocolate, though–for me it’s a fresh dark roast Starbucks and thankfully I only live maybe 1.5 miles away from one.

  4. Michelle Lim says:

    Glad this is helpful! Amazingly enough I don’t drink coffee, but a ton of people are coffee lovers. Me, I reach for a hot chocolate with mint.

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