For today's Wednesday Writing Workout, I'd like to focus on the first tool/challenge Jeanne Marie mentioned:
"I think that one of the most challenging aspects of creating a rootable character is finding a way to make him/her likeable and flawed at the same time."When I first read this, the term "rootable character" was new to me. I know now that it's simply a character the reader will want to root for. But creating one is not a simple task. In fact, it's something I'm struggling with in my current work-in-progress. Part of my challenge is that my story is set in 18th-century Milan, Italy, a time and place quite removed from my readers. How can I depict my character in a way that modern readers will understand her world well enough to empathize with and understand her feelings and choices?
One way is to find connections between me and my character that I can draw from. In a presentation to the Federation of Children's Book Groups last March, Elizabeth Wein talked about how she found such connections while writing her award-winning historical novel Code Name Verity (Disney-Hyperion) by looking for "modern parallels." But even if you're writing a contemporary story, whether fiction or nonfiction, it's not always easy to make your protagonist "rootable." Before trying the following workout, you may want to read these two articles on the topic: a post by Emilia Plater called "Radical Empathy: Creating a Compelling Flawed Character" on the YA Highway blog, and one by Alex Epstein for the 2012 Script Frenzy site called "We Like Characters Because of Their Flaws, Not Their Virtues."
Writing Workout: Creating a Rootable Character
If you have a work-in-progress, consider your main character. Is he or she too perfect? If so, can you give the character a flaw that readers could relate to and understand? Or, on the flip side, have you created a character readers will dislike? If so, can you show why this character is this way?
If you're starting a new project, spend some time thinking about your main character's flaws. Create a scene in which those flaws are apparent. Need some inspiration? Check out yesterday's Fiction Prompt for Laurie Halse Anderson's Write Fifteen Minutes a Day challenge.