Please welcome guest blogger E.M. LaBonte (aka. Nemune for the AQC crowd). I'm grateful she volunteered to offer to share her thoughts with us. Be sure to check out her blog The Realms of a Fantastical Mind. Without further ado, here she is:
What makes a protagonist likable?
Flaws, lots and lots of flaws. If the hero of every story was perfect how would the reader ever relate?
Flaws such as fears, set backs, and weaknesses all play a part in getting to like a character.
Fears: from the very simple, the fear of spiders and a fear of the dark to something more complex, fear of showing emotion, fear of falling in love. When a protagonist shows fear and reacts to certain situations that cause it, the reader can feel the same. Everyone knows what it is to be afraid, and that fear can connect the reader to the protagonist.
A great example: Ron Weasley and his fear of spiders. We cringe every time he sees one, and when he enters the forest with Harry to meet Aragog our heart races for his safety.
Set backs: Being unable to obtain the very thing the story is about. Failing or being obstructed or distracted from the goal is very normal in a readers life, so when the protagonist finds themselves having to rethink their path and how to get where they need to be, the reader can relate.
A good example: Perrin from the Wheel of Time series. When he finds himself able to communicate the wolves he pushes away from in. He fears that he has been bound to evil even though he knows that the things he's running from hate wolves. An inner struggle that no other character can see, it drew me closer to his character more than any other.
Weaknesses: Greed, chemical dependency, naïveté, emotional or financially dependent on something, or socially awkward. These things bring the protagonist down in some way or another, causing them to work through their weakness to grow as a person through the story.
A good example: Caramon Majere is a glutton and an alcoholic in the beginning of the Twins Trilogy. We watch him as he has to fight through his laziness, addiction to alcohol and his love for his brother in order to stop him from destroying the world.
Once the reader connects with the character through their flaws, the more positive aspects become more appreciated. Han Solo was a scoundrel and a crook, but even though he smuggled, and owed lots of money, his personality to do right brought out his likability. The balance has been set, flaws are made and now the protagonist can move to the next step, showing the other personality traits, the ones we would expect to see in a hero.
Thanks, E.M.! If anyone else would like to comment or add to her list, please do.