Okay, this isn't actually a sequel to my "They're Going to Hate Her" post from last year, but what I can I say? I like the title symmetry.
I also like my characters (and ham-handed segues), and I want other people to like them too, that other blog entry notwithstanding. Which is why there's another bit of feedback I've received about THE ACCIDENTAL WARLOCK that has me concerned. It's something I've seen several times and tried to ignore, but with a reworking/rewrite/completely new Shiloh & Alexi story on my mind, this is something I have to consider:
I've heard from quite a few people that they couldn't connect with or relate to Shiloh, the book's main character.
This is difficult for me to deal with. I've lived with Shiloh in my head since 2002. She's been through various forms and incarnations, from floating runic to wielder of Mjolnir to the demon-touched girl she is now, but she's always been easy to write, and I've always loved writing her. She's a bookworm who gets thrust into some sort of adventure, and I don't get why readers aren't connecting with that. Haven't we all wanted to be in the stories we're reading? (Okay, maybe not fans of The Hunger Games.) I can't be the only one who's dreamed of something happening that pulls me out of my normal life and launches me into something amazing.
I've done my best to give her engaging personality traits, especially in the first few pages of TAW, where it's most important. She's chasing after something she's dreamed about, she's driven to find it despite what others say, she's willing to admit she could be wrong but refuses to let that possibility stop her. When things go horribly wrong, she doesn't freak out and have to be rescued; she panics a little but keeps her head and fights back. I know I'm biased, but if this was happening in the first five minutes of a movie, I'd be all kinds of engaged and want to know what happens to her next.
Oddly enough, pretty much everyone who's read the book loves Alexi. But I don't think I'm ever meant to tell a story from her point of view. Ever had an idea and felt your muse threaten rebellion? Yeah. That. I don't get it, but I'm not fighting it.
I can't help thinking I'm doing something wrong if I keep hearing this same sort of thing. One potential critique partner listed it as a reason why she stopped after the third chapter, and of the two times I've entered this book in Pitch Wars, four out of the eight mentors I applied to said this. And I know not every critique deserves consideration, but when a bunch of people say the same thing, it's safe to say there's an issue that I need to address.
So here's my question: how do you make your characters engaging? I know there's no magic formula, but I'm doing the best I can and it's clearly not working. I know that part of the problem might be that the mentors only read one chapter; when I think of characters I love, it's how I feel about them at the end of the book, not the start. But I'm open to suggestions.
Next entry: been there, done that.