Friday, September 7, 2012

Make Characters Likeable by Having Someone Like Them

So much of what we do here on Seekerville and at writer’s conferences and in writing classes is try to put into words something that is just really HARD to put into words.

How do you write? Well, it’s complicated. Once in a while I hear something that really sort of clears up a vague area for me. And when I heard that sentence, that I used for the title of this blog, it was such a moment.

Make Characters Likeable by Having Someone Like Them

I had a heroine that wasn’t likeable. Now, when we’re writing we need conflicted characters. We need problems to solve. As Christian writers we often have characters struggling with their faith (which doesn’t always mean they’re lousy stinkin’ low life sinners, but sometimes!)

A lot of those conflicts and problems and sin add up to a character no one likes. After all, isn’t that sort of the POINT? Aren’t we supposed to CHANGE our characters? Take them from one place, often a bad place, and bring them to Happily Ever After?

And yet a perennial complaint in, for example writer’s contest judge’s comments is, “I don’t like you’re character.”

Click to Watch a Trailer
for Over the Edge
Well, (you respond, inside your own head ‘cuz those blasted judges are anonymous and beyond your reach) “She’s troubled. She’s separated from her faith. She’s abrasive because she’s unhappy. MY POOR HEROINE WILL BE FINE WHEN SHE FINDS TRUE LOVE AND A TRUE FAITH.


You’ve got to make her likeable right out of the box. Yes she can be troubled, or at least she can HAVE trouble, the two are different, perfectly likeable people can have bad stuff going on. But if she’s not likeable people are not going to be rooting for her. They’re not going to care about her. They’re going to think things like, “She’s a jerk and she’s going to ruin some guy’s life.”

Or “Get that rude man away from that nice heroine. She’s better off alone.”

So, you have to make your characters likeable. And you make your characters likeable by having someone like them. Give them a friend. Give them a loyal brother. Give them a pet.

To make your character likeable right from the start give them a chance meeting with a friend on the sidewalk. A moment shared with their cat. A phone call from their brother. It can be a paragraph and you get right back to your story.

And here’s the thing. My headline sentence isn’t magic.

By writing that paragraph with the friend/brother/pet you have to make your character interact in a way that’s friendly. Because they’re with someone who is in the midst of liking them, your character will be nice back. A loyal brother phones and your character, no matter how troubled, will love their brother. The two will care about each other. It will reveal a LIKEABLE side to your character, without you even planning it.

So, that’s the lesson for today.

Do you struggle with this? Do you have a knee jerk reaction to this (as I used to) ‘well she’s going to GROW.’ ‘Sure right now he’s a sinner but he finds God by the end.’ ‘She’s lonely and rejected and through the love of a good man she becomes a better person.’

Is your hero/heroine likeable? Think about your work. If you’ve read my books you know sometimes my characters are a little weird. Ambitious (Julia Kincaid, Shannon Dysart) Troubled (crazy Seth Kincaid, crazy Alex Buchanan) Bossy (Rafe AND Julie Kincaid) Domineering and anti-male (Belle Tanner-Swenson-O'Rourke-Santoni-Harden) Wimpy (Cassie Dawson) Dangerous (Mandy McClellen and Abby Linscott) A cowardly, womanizing drunkard (okay, Wade Sawyer wasn't real likeable until later, but Montana Rose wasn't about him, he was supposed to be unlikeable at first)

But they have people in their lives who LIKE THEM. (okay, again, not Wade Sawyer at first, give me a break!) It’s really just that simple.

Tell me if you’ve got a problem with likeable-ness in your characters, but you don’t want to give up on them. And without changing your character much at all, we can talk about it today and fix it.

Today, to celebrate OVER THE EDGE debuting at #12 on the ECPA Bestseller List! I'm giving a $15 CBD eGift card to one lucky commentor, so get your name in for the drawing even if your characters are just all ADORABLE!


  1. In one story my protagonist was too needy. In another it was a man, and he was too nice. Seems like they're always TOO something. But I like your idea of having otherwise unlikeable characters liked by someone else. My current protagonist is a little on the whiny side, but her Golden Retriever adores her so I guess that counts for something.

    Great post, Mary! In my time zone I'm about to head off to bed, but I'll leave a heap of fresh cinnamon buns here for any late night snackers. :)

  2. Of course my characters are adorable. One is named Ruthie. And another has the last name Connealy.

    Actually, you don't really like the Connealy character at first. She's on about a page in the prologue [which desperately needs rewriting] though her influence is felt until she shows up in chapter 2. But even though her actions seem unlikable [and unforgivable?] you know the hero doesn't dislike her. Feels sorry for her. Wonders what drove her to the decisions she made. But he doesn't hate her or anything.

    Will ponder this as I rewrite...

    Ms. Swahili Connealy

  3. Mary, great post!!!

    This just made me want to say, "Hello, Darcy!"

    You know, the novels I love have heroes that are wayyyyy out of touch with current ideas of likability. I love all thigsn Austen but she could get away with a lot of rude behavior because she ahd 400 pages to clean it up.

    Thinking I could do the same thing was bad for my writing.

    And then someone said make sure the hero is loved (really, really soon, like page TWO) by a small child or a dog or someone likeable themselves. Make sure the heroine SEES it.

    The first contest I ever entered, the wonderful judge said, "I love your heroine's best friend!"

    I thought, "What? Why? She's just funny and smart-mouthed. the story is all about the heroine, silly!"

    Then about a week later it dawned on me... Ohhhh... I see what she was saying. Heroine was unlikable. She was the straight man to the real heroine... the best friend.

    Love those contests!!! Love Seekerville!!!

  4. I have read a few regency's that I really disliked the hero at the beginning of the book by the end I still thought he was obnoxious, but then I am not a big regency fan of the aristocrats and the way they behave.

    I also want to say thank you to the Seekers for the card that arrived yesterday and blew me away. The fact you and one other reader of seekerville would take the time to send me a card to show how much you care really overwhelmed me yesterday. Thank you so much it means more to me that you will ever know. I am struggling sleep wise and actually went to see a dr for something to help me sleep for a few nights.

  5. I am a reader in this bunch and ladies I have so many characters clammoring around in my head, sometimes they want to mingle from one book to another. Thank you authors for taking the time to study all the things you do to make great stories for us to read.
    I would love to win this gift money and buy me some more books to read, I still havent finished this series Mary about Seth, I didnt win the FB party so will have to purchase soon as I want to know more about Callie...
    Paula O(

  6. I am working hard to make my characters more likable. I have to think of people I like and work their characteristics into them.

    I would love to be in the drawing!

  7. Hi Mary,

    Congrats on Over the Edge debuting at #12.

    I struggle with this. You're supposed to start with a crisis. AND show her in a friendly conversation about a cat?

    The most recent contest I got back a judge didn't like my character. In 1500 words I hadn't had time to show her good points yet, just her take charge personality.

    So I LEARNED. I wish I'd read this first.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Jackie L.

  8. Good morning, Mary! Great post! You're so right -- giving readers a reason to identify with or even like an initially unlikable character is so important. Screenwriter Blake Snyder talks about this in his "Save the Cat" book. He says when we are introduced to the hero/heroine there needs to be a moment that defines who they are inside to an audience and gives them insight into redeeming features. That might be literally saving a cat, being nice to a kid or older person, having another likable character like THEM or letting a reader in the character's head to see their POV.

  9. Hi Mary!

    I do worry about my heroine being likable in my current manuscript. She is lacking faith and sometimes she just seems negative BUT I'm hoping I show that she's a good person by the promise that she made her dad.

    Guess I'll know when the editor takes a look!

  10. great points, Mary. As always. I certainly hope my story folks are likeable. :)

    I think it's important for readers to like the villains, too. Well, not a 'go out to coffee with' like, but in the 'what a great bad guy' way. One of the things I enjoy about writing fantasy is that I can make my bad guys really, really, nonredeemable and nasty. At least I like that. :) No save the cat moments for them!

  11. yes, we are to find the magic combo of action, backstory, character and plot and perfect it in the first page. No problem!

    I have a tough to like heroine in my first completed ms. Why not? why not choose the hardest thing to do first. I'm still working on her...haven't given up.

    We can turn characters around over time (think Charity O'Connor, Lady Edith...Wade Sawyer) but we don't have that luxury if they are the protagonist. I love to do things the hard way.

  12. Good morning, Mary! Excellent tip for showing the good side of our characters with issues. I immediately thought of Scarlet in GWTW. Mammy and her mother loved Scarlet and we like those ladies enough to see the good they saw in Scarlet. Not that was necessary for me. I've always been fascinated by this complicated, bigger than life, yet flawed heroine.

    To make readers like my wounded, revenge seeking hero in my as yet unsold book--maybe you're guessing why--I show him saving a young immigrant child and giving him money for food immediately before he behaves badly with my heroine. He has reasons that the reader knows. I think it works. Time will tell.


  13. In spite of having a best friend AND a horse that loved her, my heroine got the "She's too harsh" note in the list of revisions.



    Back to the drawing board.

    Try to do "Snarky" with a lighter hand.


    Line edits. "She's a little to harsh here."

    Sigh. Again.

    Okay. Try again.

    Maybe I should have added a little kitten. And a puppy.

  14. This is very true. Two of my latest favorite books have been The Messenger by Siri Mitchell and The Rose of Winslow Street by Elizabeth Camden all because they both made me fall in love with a hero I was convinced I was never going to even like. :) Yes, and Mr. Darcy and Mr. Thornton too-- yep, I like it when both the heroine and myself are found to be the hard-hearted prejudiced ones... who eventually come around and see things as they really are. :D

  15. Oh, Mare, SOOOO TRUE!!! I had to pull the stops out in book 2 of The Daughters of Boston series with the evil sister's story in A Passion Redeemed. People wanted her slapped, maimed or killed and even my agent and editor expressed concerns over whether I could make Charity O'Connor likable. So I did EXACTLY what you said and gave her a soft and gentle (and VERY likable) best friend who loves Charity to pieces and even admires her too. Then I threw in a little ragamuffin street urchin who loves her for good measure, then a distinguished elderly man and finally a grandmother and great grandmother who adore her, which hopefully took her from "witch" status to "wonderful."


  16. Good morning, Mary! I'm pumped that Over the Edge is doing so well! And to me, your characters are always likeable...although sometimes in an "observe carefully at a distance" kind of way...

    I had all kinds of trouble getting my character to be likeable in my first story. Like you said, I had written a character who could change, but she was starting out in the hole.

    I had other characters who liked her, but they were all secondary characters that the reader didn't know yet, so why trust their opinion?

    And then I realized the one person in the first chapter that everyone loved right off the bat was my hero. Once I showed him liking her, then it worked.

  17. Mary,

    This was a great post for me since I'm just in the midst of creating characters today. My heroine is an all business type of personality, one with a plan b always in mind if something goes wrong. She has no living relatives, and is arriving in a town where she knows nobody. Any ideas how to make her likeable from the start?

    Thanks and congratulations with your book success. Whoo! Hoo! Mary!

    Jodie Wolfe

  18. Yay, Mary!! Way to go on being #12 on the bestseller list!! Woo hoo!

    I have to agree with you on this post. Although I don't always do it well. In my recently turned-in book, one critiquer (a Seeker!) gave a very honest opinion that she didn't like my heroine. And she was right!! I went back and changed her, softened her, turned some scenes around from antagonistic moments to bonding moments. And I ended up with no revisions on that book! So thank you to my friend (hint, her initials are JD) who told me the truth before I sent that book off to my editor! :)

  19. I hate for my heroine to be too nice because that can easily become insipid. So I sometimes go in the opposite direction and make her unlikeable. She needs to have flaws, right?

    But I've learned to show her good side first before squeezing in a fault. In the beginning I think the flaw/weakness should be minor. Readers should like her first. Then they can handle a flaw or two.

  20. Jenny, we'll keep you in our thoughts and prayers, especially for some good, solid sleep.

  21. Mary, what a fabulous post! I have a heroine who has been difficult to make likeable. People told me she was not very pleasant. I found one way to make her likeable was to introduce her doing something rather than having things happen to her. I'm still working on her, but your idea of showing other liking her is a keeper. Loved this post!

  22. Pol, we love readers and are so glad you hang out with us here!!

  23. BTW, The Hero's Two Journeys (by Vogler and Hauge) is fantastic for showing ways to start off so that your hero/heroine is likable!

  24. Jenny, I've dealt with the insomnia thing, off and on for years. I'm praying for you. I hope your sleep gets back into a more normal rhythm soon.

  25. LOL, Clari!! I cracked up when you said she has a horse who loves her. :)

  26. Carol, what you say about Too Needy, Too Whiny, always Too something, can you see that if you have a friend (or a golden retriever, that totally works---if it reveals her loving that dog back in a LIKEABLE WAY) liking her, then she has to behave, with that person who likes her, in a specific way.
    Your TOO character has to reveal the LIKEABLE side of herself in that friendship. Otherwise why would her friend or dog like her?

  27. TOO CAROL AVOCADO MONCADO from MARY SWAHILI CONNEALY......And WHY don't you like the Connealy character at first? Is she supposed to be a bad guy?
    I read a book recently which shall remain nameless with the most anti-male, abravise, bossy woman as the heroine. She was just a boiling kettle of anger. She should NOT have been likeable. But she had two friends who were FIERCE in their loyalty to her, as she was to them. Those friends knew what she'd been through with her last boyfriend (the rat!) and her controlling, negative mother.
    Through the moments with her friends we see the real her, the wounded, smart, hardworking woman who was SICK of suffering fools.
    It just really WORKED to make the male-bashing woman utterly likeable to the point I felt as loyal to her as her friends.

  28. Oh, Mary!!! You are #12 on the Bestseller List!!! That is so AWESOME!!! Not that I am surprised. :-) I knew it was going to happen for you, and it did, with another one of your books. Your books are just so fun!

    Okay, well, I have the same problem with my characters as I have in real life. I try TOO HARD to make people like me/them. And then my characters can come across as too nice and perfect. Readers who don't normally read Christian fiction sometimes say this about my heroines, especially. And my daughter says my heroes are too perfect and have no flaws. BUT ... not everybody says this. And my characters do change by the end of the book. Usually, by the end of the book, they have worked out whatever wrong thinking they have that was making them miserable.

    And the one book I've written that has an obviously flawed heroine, my Alabama book, is the one nobody wants! Go figure. But she is loved by her little sister, and I think she is a sympathetic character in spite of her flaws.

    And CONGRATULATIONS, Mary!!!!!! You bestseller, you. Can't wait to see you at the conference!!!

  29. VIRGINIA, Judge's comments ... I can so well remember those comments that would just make me ask, "What in the world does that mean?"
    I wasn't far enough along in my own skill development that I could even understand the comments. But later, or with one MORE piece of the puzzle added, those comments that just seem useless all the sudden are golden.

  30. JENNY, God bless you. I just love that we can know someone half a world away, talk to them daily, even hourly, through the internet.
    And obviously through mail, too. :) You've had a hard few months, girl. Thank you for finding the energy to stop in and keep us in the loop.
    You're in my prayers.

  31. Morning Mary,

    Congrats on the #12 status. Hey maybe its higher now. And I"m so not surprised. Always have loved your writing.

    And your characters. I especially love the strength of your women. Frontier women had to be amazing and you really show that. smile

    And I so suffer with the same problem. I really have to work on making my characters likable. I like them because I know them so I have to let the reader know them also. Duh.

  32. Hi PAULA O, have you tried the library? You don't have to buy the book to read it.
    If your library doesn't have it, ask for it through their interlibrary loan program. Being in libraries is a great thing for an author and I love libraries myself. I completely support any reader who goes the library route rather than the buying route.
    So many books, so little CASH!!!! Been there! (wait, I'm STILL there!)

  33. SUSAN, you think of people you like and work their characteristics into your characters. I like that.
    Of course I'm a troubled loner. I don't really like anyone. Also I spend a lot of time inside my own head daydreaming so I don't really NOTICE anyone.
    But I might make an attempt. Thanks for the suggestion.

  34. Hi Jackie L. I know exactly what you mean about working in the conversation in the opening. It doesn't really work.
    If any of you have read Over the Edge, it opens with the heroine in a shootout with bandits, yelling at the other riders on her stagecoach to GET DOWN! She is bossy and furious and abrasive and really busy trying to kill people.

    But she's got a baby to defend. I give her a moment, not much longer than half a sentence maybe three different times, to reflect on her willingness to fight and die and sacrifice and kill for that baby.
    Hopefully that's enough to touch anyone's heart and make them fight right alongside Callie.

  35. Well, see, Swahili, the heroine lures the hero to a coffee shop, goes to the bathroom and the barista gives him a note that says 'oh by the way, the baby in the stroller next to you is yours' and she doesn't come back [prologue]. They don't hear from her again for 15 years [in ch. 2].

    But the hero doesn't hate her. He wonders what drove her to do it and is glad she didn't just put the baby up for adoption rather than giving the baby to him. But we don't actually see her except for that page or so in the prologue until Ch. 2.

    As it turns out she has good reasons for not raising the baby herself, and for giving her to the hero, but it'll be a while before we get to them.

    The people who've read it so far haven't had a likeability problem, but I can see how some would.

    And I think I finally got the one sheet for this one done last night!!!!!! YAY!!!!!

  36. #12?! How'd I miss that?!?!

    GO MARY!!!!!

  37. GLYNNA Said: there needs to be a moment that defines who they are inside to an audience and gives them insight into redeeming features.

    I like this, Glynna. You learned this from reading a 'How To' book on writing?
    I should try that sometime. Seriously. I've heard of Save the Cat. Heard it's really good, but I've never known why because, of course, I've never read it.
    No wonder it took me ten years to get published.

  38. ROSE: I just finished Job's Tears. Rose's most recent release from Heartsong Presents. It's so, so so good. Rose, I really loved that book. I'm sure whatever you do with your heroine, it'll work out GREAT!

  39. lizzie, LOL, really nasty villains, you enjoy writing them, huh? You sound so DANGEROUS.
    I just read Birds Do It, lizzie, I just loved that book. The hero is such a hapless, near hostage, to his cranky parrot. It's brilliant.

  40. DEBRA says: Find..the magic combo of action, backstory, character and plot and perfect it in the first page.

    Well, sweetie, if it were easy, everyone would do it, right?

  41. JANET, think about GWTW, Scarlett is such a pill, but remember when she smashes that plate (or whatever) angry that Ashley is marrying elsewhere and we know the only reason she's mad is because she can't have him. There's no real love for Ashley...Scarlett is just spoiled.
    And then Rhett Butler sits up and laughs at her and we can SEE Rhett thinking 'here's a woman who'd be fun to tame. here's the fire I want in my life.'
    Rhett likes her. He isn't spoiling her like Mammy. He isn't worshipping her like the other men. No, Rhett sees exactly what she is and he WANTS that for himself. Rhett is the magic person in this opening who LIKES Scarlett into being likeable. (well, somewhat likeable, but she's really a pill)

  42. CLARI, I don't know exactly what the judge saw in your work but a lot of times you want to be careful not to OVER DO the corrections. If there's a line that says, "She's a little too harsh here." That doesn't mean recreate the whole character. It might just mean, 'ease this one moment, lighten up a sentence or two without changing everything.'
    Maybe it's more serious than that, but that one comment would make me TWEAK not re-write. Does that make sense?

  43. DAWN: Elizabeth Camden and I came onboard at Bethany at the same time. she's great. Pretty, too. And young, the brat.

  44. JULIE, there is no better example to taking a VERY hard to love character and making her a true and deeply loved heroine, than Charity O'Connor. She's so great and yes, I really wanted you to slap her. But she ended up going through terrible things and I ended up wanting to protect her from those things.

  45. JAN, I wonder why we do that? I mean even ourselves. Why do we make one character likeable and another difficult? Do we do it subconsciously? Are we tackling an issue that gives us trouble?
    If we make them sweet and sunny and adorable then where's the story, huh? But if we make them troubled then they're not likeable. It's all balance and it sounds like you found the key. YAY!!!!!!!

  46. JODIE, how about a friend she left behind and a phone call? How about a teddy bear she talks to. I've seen that done and it works. A pet is good, unless she kicks her cat or starves her dog. Avoid that.

  47. JEANNE if you really need her to be unpleasant then have the person who likes her be separate from her main story life. Not a co-worker, if the trouble is at work. Not a family member if the trouble is with her family. So in the midst of her unlikeableness she has lunch or takes a phone call, or has a passing moment on the street with a friend who likes her and this way we reveal that likeable side of herself.

  48. MELANIE: I don't know what struggle you have when you're writing, but the end product is fantastic. I love your books. And your characters are amazingly three dimensional, good and bad points all wrapped up in a really human form.

  49. YAY, Mary!!! Number 12!!!! Woot!!!
    Are you celebrating today perhaps? Not yet?

    I'm bringing chocolate cake and ice cream, paper hats and noise makers so let the party begin!

  50. Ausjenny,
    We've been praying for you and sending lots of love across the miles. Lots of hugs too.

  51. CAROL, that is hilarious. Honestly. I'm sitting here laughing at that woman leaving him a baby and a note. What a wild beginning.

  52. On topic...

    If my character acts in a rather obnoxious way, I use introspection to show his/her own regret for the inappropriate action or hastily spoken words. When the reader knows the character's inner conflict, from which the caustic behavior springs, they're more apt to forgive and can even better relate to that character, IMHO.

    Love "Save the Cat." Love Michael Hauge too. He says to endear a character to the reader's heart initially make the hero likeable, good at what he does, heroic and/or sympathetic. As I have mentioned many times, when Michael Hauge speaks, I listen. :)

  53. I have definitely struggled with unlikable main characters. Natalie in One Imperfect Christmas was probably the toughest. Readers still either love her or hate her, even after my editor helped me show her softer side.

    Now I'm working with making the "villain" of the first book in a series the romantic hero in the second book. He's definitely troubled, but he has a friend who's at least tried to be there for him from the start, and the heroine, of course, who sees the man he once was and could be again.

  54. I'm in the midst of reading "Over the Edge" and I admire how you brought Seth Kincaid from absolutely nutso crazy to an almost adorable crazy before giving him his own book.

  55. Seems so obvious... Glad you told us. When at least one person likes someone, others have to stop and consider that the person they don't like isn't all bad.

  56. Hi Mary:

    Great news on #12! I just got my large print, hard copy, of “In Too Deep” yesterday to take on my vacation trip. (The type was too small on my normal size copy.) You might say, “I’m Too Far Behind”.

    This is a great post because it gets right to the point and is memorable. It’s very easy to remember to have someone or some animal like your character.

    However, I would very much like you to do a follow up post on making your character sympathetic.

    I think judges sometimes confuse a likeable character with a sympathetic character and these are not the same thing at all. You can be likeable and not sympathetic. You can also be sympathetic and not likeable. Both of these things can happen when the character helped create her own problems or she doesn’t face her problems with character.

    Betty Neels has the most sympathetic heroines that I’ve read. Often the heroine is the victim of injustice. The young heroine is cheated out of her house by her evil relatives when her parents are killed. She is sent out into the night in a rain storm with her two pets with no place to go and also no money but she does it with nobility and courage. The injustice is so great you want to jump into the story and rescue her but before you can do that, a rich doctor in a luxury car offers her a ride. Will justice prevail? Oh, yes, and it never felt so good.

    I’d love to see what you could do with a post on making characters sympathetic.

    BTW: I think I liked Sidney so much because his little girls adored him (didn’t they?) He also had a dream to give his little family the greatest home in the world.


  57. Hi Julie:

    It didn’t help me like Charity at all just because other people liked her! It was too late in the game for that. I already knew what she was capable of doing when she was out of sight of those people who 'liked' her and when there was something she really wanted.

    I think you have to have people like your characters before they learn too much about their unlikeability.

    You want to know what made me come around to liking Charity? It was when she stormed into her husband’s office and risked getting him fired (during the depression!) by giving ‘holy hell’ to that evil woman (and big company stockholder) who was after her husband. That was a redemption. (But maybe female readers like different things.) : )

    You want to be liked by male readers? Fight for your husband.


  58. Vince, sympathetic characters. Another great topic. I'll see if I got anything on that. :)
    I know I personally am a sucker for self-sacrifice. A heroine who sacrifices her own chance at happiness for the good of someone else is one of the few things in a book that can make me cry.
    I don't think I write self-sacrifice enough, but I should because I love it.
    Also, you just gotta let Sidney go, Vince. He's dead and unmourned (except I you).
    And I'm using YOUR Connealy-Swahili trick to get people to pronounce my name right. THANK YOU!!!!!!

  59. Valerie, why are you so surprised I could make crazy Seth work? I've had many people say that but to me he was always such a sweet, sympathetic character.
    He's not like Wade Sawyer who had to morph from low down evil skunk to hero. Wade had some serious changing to do.
    But Seth, he was always a sweetheart, very troubled and unfortunately pretty crazy, but vulnerable, tormented and decent beneath the madness.

  60. I actually always had a heart for Wade Sawyer, too, but I get how some people didn't. TOTALLY GET IT!

  61. Great advice, Mary. I try to make something about my characters likeable, but I have this desire to take a really dark hero and make him good. And I have just the man in mind.

  62. My author copies arrived!

    The end of the inscription is a shout out to Seekerville.

    Thanks again for all the awesome writing tips and advice and... of course, the query contest that got this book pubbed.

    And now back to your regularly scheduled programming on liable heroes...

  63. Actually, Mary, I have the opposite problem. My characters tend to be too likable. (I even have a protagonist in book two who the reader is going to love and be torn over him. I might have to rough him up a bit.)

    Now,I did have trouble with Beth in the beginning when she appeared to some to be weak and spastic. Now that one... I totally understand what you're saying there! Yep. Totally!

    I have to say. Wade Sawyer threw me for a loop! I like what you did with him. :D And I'd love to be in the drawing...

    Great post!!!

  64. Great topic, Mary. I once pitched a story that sounded great to me, but as I continued with my 90 seconds, I saw the editor's eyes glaze over. Ah oh...And without the editor's input, I immediately knew the problem.

    My hero was mean, exacting his vengeful will with anger and ugliness. No number of dogs, cats, antelope, or even angels, could have buffered this guy's dark personality.

    This is a pitch I worked on for awhile. So why hadn't I realized it before I pitched? I'd practiced it out loud and to others. The most amazing thing is I'd written 35,000 words of the manuscript and this guy was frustrating, but he wasn't the monster in my pitch!

    But I knew, as soon as I sat across from that editor that this hero was not only wrong for this line, but for the story - whatever that story was...because it wasn't the one I was writing after all! It turned out to be a valuable learning experience.

  65. Mary, I can't believe I forgot to congratulate you on your #12 spot! Woo-hoo for you!!!

  66. Well, one of my last contest entries came back with 2 of the 3 judges telling me that my heroine was not likeable. In one lovely, anonymous judge's comments, my heroine was described as "too stupid to live." Hmmm. I guess I have a problem with the unlikeable protagonist. I'll try to make someone like her and see if that changes things. Thanks for the tip!


    Did you take a picture? Are you dancing? Screaming? Shouting for joy?

    Did you lovingly touch the cover and stare at your name in print?


    Cake and ice cream this AM for Mary. More cake and ice cream this afternoon for you, Virginia, to celebrate your debut!

    Mention of Seekerville? How sweet is that? As sweet as this yummy cake!

    No, Ruthy didn't bake it. I bought it at Publix, but they make great cakes. Really!!!

    So happy for you!

  68. Annie, sorry about the TSTL comments. Can you fix the problem with better motivation for your heroine? Sometimes that works. Sometimes not.

    Don't let the judges' comments set you back. Keep writing!

  69. I'm not a writer so I can't speak about my own characters but as an avid reader I totally agree! If I don't like a character from the start I'm usually gonna end up disliking the whole book!

  70. Virginia, I slept with an armfull of my first book. It was hard on my husband to move to another room, but the books HAD to be comfortable. He understood!!!!!!

  71. Lyndee, that is sad and so TRUE. Why oh why don't we see these things before hand? I think it's just because we know, in our hearts, that the guy is really going to be decent and heroic... eventually. But when we whittle it down for a pitch suddenly our blinders are off. You learned from that so it wasn't time wasted.

  72. Linnette, too likeable? do you have a problem tormenting and abusing your characters? Likeable can be okay as long as you're willing to get out the waterboard, girl.

  73. My characters are all adorable - except when they're not which is often. But I get it. One of the hardest things to do is finish reading a book where I haven't been given enough reason to like the hero or heroine. All it takes is a little something to identify with. I either need to love them or love to hate them.

  74. Mary said my characters are all "amazingly three dimensional." No wonder I love you so much, Mary!!! :-)

  75. To all the Seeker authors,

    ALL of your characters are adorable...some more than others :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  76. Congrats on #12! I loved it! Will be posting reviews later, Lord willing, tonight on Amazon and Good reads, and anywhere else that I can list one! :) I think that I will be facing a similar problem. My heroine is going to have to make are REALLY tough decision-but she will have done "The right thing", and will have performed many other good things during the story. I hope that it doesn't backfire. This is a prequel that will take my readers up to book one. I want to use it as a Free Smashwords edition to be a hook for the series. And I know that for the tool that it will be, it has to be the best that I've ever done. I know that I'll need some good eyes on it.

    PS I devoured the Kincaid Trilogy; I just couldn't read Seth with out reading his bros. in order.

    Love them all three!
    Thanks, Mrs. Mary!
    And again, congratulations!

  77. Mary:

    It might be best not to put an exclamation point after #12. The first four times I read this, from your blog posts, I thought it opened at #121. That made me wonder: how long is that list?

    BTW: I saw your Swahili credit on the ACFW loop. It just made my day. I wish I could help everyone. It’s fun.


    P.S. I’ve gotten over Sidney twice now but he hasn’t gotten over me. I might be his only friend. : )

  78. Yes, I wrote an opening once where a person did NOT like the character. I had to go back and find out why.

  79. Cindy, I read a book once where the heroine died, the hero died and the hero and heroine's son died.

    All I could think was, 'good riddance. What obnoxious people.'

  80. I love you, too, Melanie. But I'm not being nice (well, I am, but besides that....) It's' just true.

  81. karenk, but don't you think Ruthy tortures her characters overly? What's more, can't you tell she's enjoying it a little bit to much?

  82. I'm glad you enjoyed the books, Amy and I greatly appreciate you leaving reviews. I love seeing them. (even though Tina tells me I'm not supposed to look!)

  83. VINCE, many is the time I would have LOVED that list to go up to 121. I might've made it a little more often!

  84. JANET KERR, good for you for revising and studying and learning. It can be painful. Trust me. I know.

  85. Congrats on the 12th, Mary. Did you celebrate with 12 of something? A dozen donuts? Twelve hershey kisses...ooohhhhh or twelve dear heart kisses or maybe doggie kisses or a dozen roses?

    And thanks for the insights in this blog. I'm soaking it and all the comments up now that I have a breathing spell after a crazy work week. I am struggling with a grump of a hero. I'll have to apply this lesson to him and see what happens. :-)

  86. KAV, I thought about giving away $12 but that seemed cheap.
    But if I give money away by the ratings location then the better I do the worse my winner does. So that's actually pretty low down, right?
    So I'll stick with $15 for now.

  87. CHRISTINA, when you say a DARK hero, do you mean like...tormented? Because that can be great. tormented with a loving teddy bear I suppose.

  88. I read a really dark hero one time and he had this pet cat that he kept close, stroking it in a very aloof way.
    The cat's name??? LUCIFER.
    Still, I loved that hero. :)

  89. Read this post thie morning but haven't had a chance to comment on it until now.

    I have a WIP set in Portalnd in the 1870s. My heroine is very likeable in that she looks after several young children for a family, including a spunky brat named Ruthy that loves baseball.

  90. I would like to point out that I read this point when it first went up last night. Then I promptly forgot to post.

    I am a slacker.

    But this is still an awesome post.

  91. Congrats on number 12 and thanks for a fun, helpful post.

    I loved Seth's vulnerability and gentleness from the beginning ... and ached for what happened to him as a child. I so wanted to see his spirit shine ... and it does :-)

    Nancy C

  92. WALT, I already like your heroine. You're spunky brat, too. :)

  93. Oops, I mean YOUR spunky brat. that typo makes 'you're spunky brat.' reads like YOU are a spunky brat' and NOTHING could be farther from the truth.


  94. You are very, very late, Tina. But not TOO late. Congrats on being the freebie deal of the week on the HQ website.

  95. Thanks, Nancy. I loved the way Seth could immediately understand exactly why he'd married callie as fast as he could. He couldn't remember doing it, but he could completely believe he'd done it, because he was so drawn to her and she to him....despite the crazy.

  96. I also found out this week that they're are re-releasing Petticoat Ranch as a stand alone book. That book is impossible to find in bookstores.
    I'm thrilled about it but I wonder why they do that? Let it sell out, then launch it again. I suppose it gives them something new to say about it??? And that generates sales??? But do they do that with books they've...for example....remainedered (is that how you wpell that word?)
    Why do that? sell off all the copies, then print up more?
    The viscissitudes of the publishing world

  97. I see the weekend edition is up so my day is done.

  98. But I'm going to leave just two more comments even though I have nothing to say.

  99. So I can have 100 comments. How fun is that?

  100. Hi Mary:

    Comment 101 – Marketing Dynamics

    When "Petticoat Ranch" went out of print the publisher did not know you would write so many additional books and become so award-winningly successful. Remaindering made sense as books cost money to store, insure, and pay inventory tax on.

    So now with all your extra readers, it makes sense to reprint your backlist. Of course, with ebooks this is not a problem. Ebooks need never go out of print.

    I hope this new, ‘back-by-popular-demand’, edition does not make my original first edition copy worth less money. I’m holding that book for my retirement. : )


  101. Loved, loved, loved this series. You are by far my favorite author. :)
    I love the fun you put in your books.

  102. That's a really good point to bring up. It's hard to balance on that fine line of middle ground between too unlikeable and too perfect. But like you said, if it was easy anybody could do it. :) Congrats on being #12!

  103. Thanks fr sharing! I hadn't thought about it like that before, even though I'm doing that in my current work in progress.

    Another thing I heard a writer say (can't remember who or when) was that even if your characters are doing bad things, if you reveal their intentions behind it, or the tradgedy that drove them to it, they will still be likeable thru their sin.

    Thanks again!

  104. Mary,

    Thanks for the great info on making characters likeable!

  105. Mary, definitely tormented. I'd tell you about him but then I'd have to shoot ya. jk *g*

    If there was ever a broken home it should have been his, having never recalled his parents having a civil conversation. After the death of his mother, and against his own wishes, he follows in his father's occupational footsteps. An occupation that he blames for the demise of his parents' marriage. An occupation, he's sure that will keep him from settling down and marrying.

  106. Vince your first edition should be very rare.
    It's been a long time since a new copy of Petticoat Ranch was available and now even a copy of Lassoed in Texas, the 3 in 1 containing Petticoat Ranch is unavailable.

    So yes, I think you can spend all your nest egg, safe in the knowledge that you own such a valuable book.

    You and Linda can live with Tina if things don't work out.

  107. Love your books!

  108. I actually had one of those characters. He was kind of a creep, but like you, I figured he would come around once Christ got ahold of him. But I kept hearing what a jerk he was, so I made him a touch more human.

    I just keep thinking that in other realms of writing, the character can be a total jerk and no one seems to mind. Not everyone is nice, but I suppose if someone is going to like this doofus of a character I have, I will have to give them a glimpse of his heart and what he could be.

    Tina P