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What makes you care about the hero in the 1st ten pages?

Janx

Adventurer
I took chapter 1 to a critique with some published authors. Along for the ride were a couple of other people at my level, who'd just done the same. I got useful feedback (aka I need to fix stuff). Then the ridealong said, "why should I care about this character?"

Now as a smart-alec who writes a smart-alec character named Alex Rune thought, "because you're not a psychopath?"

But more seriously, It's chapter 1, the first ten pages. What makes you want to stick around? What makes you care about the character enough to do that? What turns you off?

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I know one (of the many) things I did wrong that gave that listener the thought (the pro's did not bring that up). But here' I'm fishing for "as a reader" thoughts, since in the end, I want people shaped like you to read page 11 and beyond.
 

Zardnaar

Adventurer
Hero might not be needed you can get it on the world building. Game of Thrones for example or a flashback to the past setting up the events for the book.

Main thing is the hook is interesting.
 

MarkB

Hero
Generally, anything that can give you an emotional connection to the character. A bit of geeky humour, so that you know they share some of your interests. A moment of self-deprecation to show that they don't take themselves too seriously. A setback or failure, seeing them fall and then get back up again. A reaction of visceral horror to seeing something truly disturbing.
 

jonesy

A Wicked Kendragon
There are stories that depend on you to dislike the main character. For example, in The Girl on the Train, the main character is purposefully written to be unlikable. The reasons for this are plot spoilers, but suffice to say that the main character begins as an unreliable narrator, who comes to realize herself that she is an unreliable narrator. In the movie they made her Emily Blunt, which takes away some of that since the actress isn't all that unlikeable (in my opinion Emily is extremely likeable).

One of my all-time favourite scifi stories features a character who is more than unlikeable, and actually far more unlikeable than the story first lets you know, because the reveal at the end changes everything. The big problem with this book is that talking about it spoils it. The reveal is a supporting structure.

Another scifi book with unlikeable stars is The Real Story by Stephen R. Donaldson. It's a very well written interesting story, but the main male character is a really disgusting monster and the main female character is written to be a pitiable victim who, I guess, grows up through the abuse suffered by him (there are a lot of questionable decisions made both by the characters and the author). Still a good story.

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But what makes me like a character? If they make me smile (Aziraphale from Good Omens), or laugh (Crowley from Good Omens), or go "huh, that's true" (I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic made me like Zlatan). A realistic and/or relatable portrayal of their reaction to the situation at hand can help (Arthur Dent), although sometimes a character is fun when it has an outlandish reaction (Zaphod Beeblebrox). Sometimes a story flips them around (Caramon is mostly relatable but uninteresting, while Raistlin is mostly unrelatable but interesting). Sometimes the normal people in the world dislike a character who is still written to be likeable (Geralt of Rivia). Other times you keep wondering why the story keeps thinking that the protagonist is likeable (Richard in the Sword of Truth).
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
A character that is relatable is usually more likable.

People connect with characters who try -- it does not have to be successful. So part of that is where are you starting your story?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Hm. Typically, what gets me past the first 10 pages isn't that I, "care about," the main character. Heck, I am pretty sure that I have several books on my shelves that spend the first 10 pages doing world-building or scenario introduction, and the work's nominal protagonist hasn't shown up yet! You surely don't get to know a character in 10 pages - anything you know 10 pages in is likely either the most basic or superficial information about them. That's probably not the interesting bits yet.

At 10 pages in, it is probably more general writing style that keeps me reading. If that's engaging, exactly what you've told me about the protagonist or the world is not yet an issue.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I certainly didn't care about Luke Skywalker in the first 10 pages/minutes. And no way did I care about Jon Snow until at least the second season.

You don't have to make people care about the main character in the first 10 pages. You just have to not be boring.
 

Imaculata

Explorer
All you need is to be interesting on the very first page, and then people will keep reading. It helps if the main character is relatable, but an exciting opening is far more important.
 
For me, that first page hook is pretty important. So much of my decision to purchase one book over another is based on that opening salvo, whether buying at a brick and mortar shop or on Amazon.

As far as caring about the main character goes, a big step is them not being a farmboy with a hidden destiny. I am so utterly tired of it, that particular trope is like nails on a chalkboard.

All you need is to be interesting on the very first page, and then people will keep reading.
 

Dioltach

Adventurer
For me, that first page hook is pretty important. So much of my decision to purchase one book over another is based on that opening salvo, whether buying at a brick and mortar shop or on Amazon.

As far as caring about the main character goes, a big step is them not being a farmboy with a hidden destiny. I am so utterly tired of it, that particular trope is like nails on a chalkboard.
And *if* he's a farmboy, give him a farmboy name. No Ayarazathae'x, no Shyraurenth, just plain Nob and Gruff.
 

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