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Pam Uphoff


One way to hook a reader right off the bat is to make them identify with your main character.

Another sure-fire way is to start with explosions, gunfire and derring-do.

Even so, once the shooting has stopped, the reader needs to like the MC. Or want to be him. Or respect him or her, admire, find interesting . . . there has to be a connection or the reader stops caring about the MC and that’s pretty much the end of that book. I mean, you’ve got to have a really intriguing problem to keep the reader reading once he stops caring if the characters live or die.

So how do you manipulate your readers into wanting to either be the main character, or to be his best buddy?

Well, try giving him a best buddy in the book. IMO it’s usually better without romance between the two. Doesn’t have to be all smooth, never a disagreement.

Check out books and movies that are favorites of yours. Kirk and Spock. Honor and Nimitz. Frodo and Sam. Han Solo and Chewbacca. Harry, Ron and Hermione. The interactions between characters is a way to pass information about the world and the situation to the readers, but it also shows the character of the characters.

And if Kirk and Spock are one of the best examples of men friends, probably Honor Harrington and Mike Henke some of the best female. Professional and personal support, complete confidence in each other. Liking. Trust. Humor. All the stuff that makes a friend a friend.

We like reading about the camaraderie within a group, even when it seems like small potatoes against a massive battle to Save the Universe. But it’s those friendships that draw us in and make the danger real. That make us care, not just that the right side wins the battle, but that our friends survive.

And for the writer, it doesn’t matter that you can’t write the whole huge battle. You write about what your small group of comrades do. Brief glimpses of the large battle, if you need to add the sense that things are getting desperate, or not. You can paint heroism on a small scale, and make your reader sweat and cry, clinch their teeth and pant as their friend is wounded, a buddy drops. Someone they know and care about dies.

Make your readers cry, because it’s their friend that just went out in a blaze of glory. Make them snivel, as the survivors grieve. Or go in to rescue their commander, because surely there’s some chance he survived.

Having your Main Character be a good friend in the stories, is the best way to make your readers want to buy your book and spend some time in a dangerous place with their buddy.

Take a look at your stories. How many genuine friendships does you main character have?

My favorite “buddy book” of my own:

  1. paladin3001 #

    I think I have accidentally fallen into this concept. You’re right though. Friends, buddies, and pals help to define a character better then just them doing stuff.

    July 21, 2017
  2. *grins* I protest! You left out McCoy from the Star Trek example!

    In all seriousness though, I agree with this. The saying that one can tell much about a person’s character from who he is friends with – as well as who he calls enemies! – is very true.

    I’ve seen a number of instances though, where this is turned on its’ head to fantastic advantage. (A couple of examples show up in CLAMP’s Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, and Jim Butcher’s White Court vampires seems to weaponize that when needed.

    July 21, 2017
    • And Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, Checkov . . . Frankly I credit Star Trek’s success as much to the fans wanting to hang around with their good friends on the other side of the glass, as see what trouble they were in this time.

      July 21, 2017
      • Characters can carry a lot.

        July 21, 2017
  3. Draven #

    be a good friend or have a good friend or even seem capable of having a good friend

    July 21, 2017
  4. Pam, thanks for this reminder. It rings true for me. I wonder though if it isn’t hard for many of us to write this kind of friendship because it’s so rare in our own worlds. Just a thought.

    July 21, 2017
  5. I’m definitely going to have to give some thought to this one… thanks for the fuel. 🙂

    July 21, 2017
  6. TRX #

    They don’t have to be friends or buddies. They don’t even have to like each other. They might even hate each other’s guts.

    The point is that circumstances force them to work together more than their preferences would push them apart.

    July 21, 2017
    • That’s a different kind of relationship. It might develop into a friendship (or True Love, it’s much used in Romances), but genuine close buddies attracts a lot of readers.

      July 21, 2017
    • Zsuzsa #

      “If you die now, how am I supposed to beat you up later?”

      July 21, 2017
  7. BobtheRegisterredFool #

    One of the projects I am infected with is founded on friendship. It is possible that I do not really understand friendship. (“The power of friendship compels ye, grimdark” has been running through my mind since this post reminded me of that project.)

    This week’s DuffelBlog safety brief is Pride and Prejudice themed. I think I’m disappointed, but it should be better than zombies.

    July 21, 2017
  8. C4C

    July 21, 2017
  9. thephantom182 #

    “Take a look at your stories. How many genuine friendships does you main character have?”

    I fear I may have taken this too much to heart. Super-humans are super fun to hang out with, it turns out.

    July 21, 2017
    • Excellent. I dare say your readers wish they could hang out with them, too.

      July 21, 2017
  10. In the book I just finished? The MC’s wife, but that’s it. Why? He is a long-distance merchant, and goes to different places with different groups of fellow-travellers. The book is in some ways more of a milieu novel than a character novel.

    July 21, 2017
    • No recent acquaintances he hit’s it off with? Favorite horse or dog? :: Grin :: Okay, not culturally realistic.

      July 21, 2017
  11. Jamie #

    I love this. I always watched Star Trek for the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triumvirate. It’s fun to see how a pair within the trio might interact with each other on a mission. On another writing blog someone deployed a CS Lewis observation that resonates: Friends bring out different parts of each other. Friend A illuminates an aspect of Friend B, and Friend C in turn illuminates a different aspect of Friend B.

    Lewis said that when a particular friend had died, he didn’t just lose that friend, he also lost the way that friend made Tolkien react to that particular friend’s jokes. The loss of that friend led to the loss of an aspect of Tolkien, though Tolkien still lived [then].

    By default, three protagonists come into my head for any given story I write. They’re usually friends. But even when they’re not, it is as you said, that one character illuminates some part of another character, which you might not see otherwise.

    As a reader I care more when characters in peril are striving to save a friend, or are standing “back to back” against some danger. This is great advice; I never thought about it consciously before.

    July 22, 2017

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