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10 Shortcuts to Make Your Main Character Vulnerable and Lovable


Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards

“10 Shortcuts to Make Your Main Character Vulnerable and Lovable” by Joan Y. Edwards

If your main character has everything he needs, take the most significant thing from him. Pick his pocket. Get it out of his closet or take it off the shelf. Turn your main character’s world upside down. Let me explain.

For instance, some children must have their blanket with them wherever they go.  Baby Bop called hers Blanky. Others may call it Wooby, as did the people in the movie, Mr. Mom. It is their security blanket. If they can’t touch it, they become emotionally unglued and devastated. Here’s the definition of Wooby from Urban Dictionary:

Urban Dictionary: wooby

(noun) Security blanket, teddy bear, or any physical item (for children) or emotional feeling (for adults) that gives you that safe, fuzzy, warm aura.

Take your main character’s security blanket away. You want him to become emotionally unglued and devastated enough to change in order to reach his goal.

  1. If your character is addicted to a schedule, change it.
  2. If your character is addicted to coffee, have a coffee shortage.
  3. If your character is addicted to fancy, expensive clothing, have him spend time with the homeless with a torn T-shirt and a pair of shorts.
  4. If your character needs to have his wallet with him at all times, have him lose it.
  5. If your character needs a car to get to where he’s going, have it break down.
  6. If your character needs to have a security system to feel safe, have a storm knock it out.
  7. If your character depends on another character for his money, have that character disappear and make him have to get a job.
  8. If your character is a runner who needs good running shoes, have someone switch his shoes to one of a smaller or larger size.
  9. If your character needs an alarm clock, break it.
  10. If your character needs a great hair style, have the hairdresser chop it off.

When you take away your main character’s security blanket, he will have to deal with his anger, loss, and will have to make changes to reach his goal. When you take away his security blanket, he becomes vulnerable. Readers relate to vulnerable characters. A reader might say, “I can’t stand to be without my lucky pen, I understand how he feels.” When readers find characters similar to them, they are drawn to them and find them lovable. Try it. You’ll like it.

Here are more of my blog articles about characterization. I hope that they inspire you with great ideas for your life and your writing.

  1. Any Job Is Easy, If You Have the Right Tools
  2. Desire That Clashes with Values Equals Conflict
  3. Do You and Your Characters Follow the Crowd’s Emotions?
  4. Eight Character Archetypes to Emphasize the Conflict in Your Story
  5. Inner Motives Lead to Conflicts of Characters
  6. Is Your Main Character’s Head Filled with Lies?
  7. Know Your Main Character
  8. Make Your Character’s Actions Show Emotions
  9. Negative Behaviors Are Clues to Your Personal Needs and Those of Your Characters
  10. Props for Characters: Toys, Games, and Other Items
  11. Pull Readers in – Show Believable Emotions in Your Writing
  12. Put Dilemmas in Your Stories for a Compelling Punch
  13. Put Universal Conflict, Theme, and Emotions in Your Story
  14. Put Your Main Character into a Pit and Watch Him Devise Ways to Get Out
  15. Put Your Readers in an Emotional Tug-of-War
  16. Shortcuts to Make Your Main Character Vulnerable and Lovable
  17. Show Emotion and Conflict in Your Writing
  18. Show the Inner and Outer Conflicts of Your Characters
  19. Ways to Make Your Characters Memorable and Enticing
  20. What Is Your Story’s Premise? Editors Want to Know
  21. What’s a Sidekick? What’s His Job?
  22. What Will It Cost? An Arm, a Leg, and Your First Child?

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Celebrate you.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards

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16 Responses

  1. For my character…it was his sword. He would never come ‘un-glued’ but it did create a vulnerability he was forced to overcome and compensate for in order to complete his ‘task’.
    Sometimes giving a charcter something they cannot ‘change’ (ie you can buy a new wallet or alarm clock or cell phone…it is a lot harder to replace intangibles) creates a greater need for change within themselves.

    Like

    • Dear Pamela,
      Thanks for writing. I appreciate your sharing about your character losing his sword that forced him to overcome and compensate for in order to complete his task. You are right, giving a character something that they cannot change will create a greater need for change within themselves.
      I enjoy hearing about how you create great characters.

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

  2. great ideas! Thanks

    Like

    • Dear Carol,
      You are welcome. Thanks for writing. I hope these ideas spark ideas that work for your characters.

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

  3. Joan,
    Thanks for the reminders to keep the tension high and to make the MC’s world messy.

    Like

    • Dear Linda,
      Thank you for writing. You’re welcome for the post. You’re right, it is good to keep the tension high and to make the MC’s world messy for him. I hope this helps you with at least one of your characters.

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

  4. Great reminder and examples of what we can do to change a character and how important it is that he/she changes.

    You could draw similarities with what writer’s block and a really tough critique does to your writing. Take away the, “Gee, that’s a super story,” and add a few, “the character would never say that,” or “you’re insulting your readers by telling them how to think,” or “that chapter rehashes things we already know” and you’ll either continue on your merry way doing it your way or listen and see your manuscript and your writing improve exponentially.

    Like

    • Dear Sandra,
      Thank you for writing and sharing other ways we can draw. You’re right. If you take away the compliments of a critique and replace them with insulting words, a writer has a chance to look at his manuscript with an objective eye and improve. If your main character is a writer, this would be a good place to show him change. He could go from resisting any criticism, to hmm…maybe there’s a lesson to learn in it.

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards.

      Like

  5. The examples I gave of critique comments IMHO are not insulting comments. In my mind they fall into the extremely constructive realm which I LOVE. I wouldn’t want to be in a critique group that doesn’t point these errors out. And, yes, all the above have been said to me and because of them, my writing has improved more than I can say. Thank you SOUP SISTERS!

    Like

    • Dear Sandra,
      Thanks for writing. I guess my word – insulting – was too strong, but yet sometimes we might at first think the words from a critique are insulting, but then realize they are the seeds to better writing and a stronger manuscript when we see their wisdom and try out new ways for our manuscripts. It is great when you are in a critique group that helps you learn and grow. It is an awesome gift.

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

  6. Hi Joan,
    I cringed when I read number 10. My worst nightmare.
    Super post. 🙂

    Like

    • Dear Tracy,
      Thanks for writing. I hope no hair stylist chops off your hair. Your hair is lovely. Thanks for adding a little humor here. We can create havoc for a character because we know he/she can take it.

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

  7. Great examples, Joan, and also good for story sparkers! I like the alarm clock idea 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    • Dear Susanna,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you thought they were great examples. You are right. They could be used for story sparkers. What a great idea! I’m glad you saw the humor in the alarm clock idea.

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

  8. Thanks for these great ways to mess with the MC life in a story. I agree with you, Make them suffer and you have a good story. 🙂

    Like

    • Dear Clar,
      Thank you for writing. You’re very welcome for this post. I’m glad you believe it contains great ways to mess with the main character’s life in a story.
      Pam Zollman told me in a workshop in 2008, “You’ve got to hurt your bunnies.”
      Sometimes hurting our characters is hard for us to do. One day I realized that they are smart and can figure out how to get out of their messes. Since then, I’ve had an easier time of it.
      Celebrate you.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

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