Thursday, July 30, 2009


Here's a question for all you fiction writers out there.

How do you make a character likable, but still human? How do you include flaws without turning off the average reader?

I've been wrestling with this question because when it comes to my Up Lantau Running book, I've heard several times that people "don't like" or "can't relate to" my main character, Lila.

Here's a quote from an agent who recently read my query letter: "Lila ditching Rainbow killed my sympathy for Lila. She uses meanness to get a boy's attention?"

While I sincerely appreciate this agent's feedback (agent feedback is always golden!), the comment above did make me wonder.

Well, yeah. You're not supposed to get a big gush of love for Lila when she acts that way. But she's human. She makes mistakes, like we all do. This particular instance happens half-way through the book. Once readers get to this part, they already know Lila. They know she's making a mistake. But they also know why she's making it. (Hopefully.)

So what's the balance? Are some flaws okay, but some not? Is it all subjective or are there some big no-no's of which we should be aware?

What do you think?


  1. This is an excellent question. I've been thinking about character flaws for a while because I was afraid of your dilemma -- making my character too flawed. She is supposed to be, overall, a nice girl.

    I guess the balance for me came when I thought a little bit about my MC's character. She does kind things when no one is watching, and her thoughts always reveal the truth and the motivation -- sufficiently to make the mistakes and flaws work. It just fit into my storyline.

  2. I think showing the character's disapproval of her own flaws is a way of re-involking sympathy. Everyone has flaws... and everyone hates their own flaws. Therefor, everyone can relate. Just a thought...