Writing Likable Characters

We all want our readers to be invested in our stories. When a reader invests in your story, they are investing in a continued journey with you as a writer. Besides having someone thoroughly enjoy the work that you put so much effort into, having an invested reader can lead to great opportunities such as representation and publication if you’re seeking a more traditional means of publishing, or a loyal fan-base and more clout on social media if you’ve chosen to go with self-publication. Either way, only good things can come for you and your book if you have invested readers. 

But what is the key to success to capturing the hearts of readers? One of the easiest ways to get a reader completely on board with your book is to create likable and relatable characters. Think of all the books that you personally like – how many of them can you honestly say you like them for reasons other than the characters? Sure, the Harry Potter series is cool and JK Rowling outdid herself when she created the wizarding world, but if you stripped all the magic away, you’d be left with only the characters. And that was truly the heart of the books. It was Harry, Hermoine, and Ron that stole our hearts and made us want to keep reading. You can try to counter argue, but deep down you know it’s true. Take any story of any genre and strip away the fantastical settings, the plot twists, the romances, etc. and you’ll see that it’s the characters that are always at the heart of all our beloved books. 

But what is it about certain main characters that resonate with us and make us feel invested in their stories? All these beloved main characters and side characters that we love to discuss at length with friends, cosplay at events, or make fanart for; the one thing that they all have in common is their likability and relatability. So how do you go about creating characters that people like and want to follow?

Here are some tips:

Vulnerability– giving your character a vulnerability is one of the easiest ways to get your character to resonate with readers. This vulnerability can either be a physical one like a handicap or an emotional one. Either way, seeing a character struggle with their own weaknesses, hopes, limitations, or fears is always a way to get readers to see themselves in a character. 

Backstory– kind of lining up a bit with the vulnerability point is backstory. Introducing a why for the character’s actions or thoughts is always a way to make them seem relatable. And looking to their backstory is a good place to start. This is particularly helpful if you want to write an antagonist that is well-rounded and not just a straight up A-hole. Sometimes some of the best villains have some of the saddest or complicated backstories. Take the most recent Joker film. This is a perfect example of a well-rounded villain. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a bad guy, but getting to see his origins definitely helps us better understand his motivations. And in doing so we end up feeling bad for him – something that ends up making him more relatable in our eyes.  

Failure– letting your main character fail isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can definitely help the relatability of a character. We’ve all faced failure within our own lives. We all love an underdog story with the odds stacked against them. Let your character fail and make a courageous comeback. Their resilience will speak volumes with readers because we’ve all been there. 

Morals– most for the heroes of our stories making them be nice helps a bit. We want to think of characters as being generally nice. Characters that show kindness, generosity, or selflessness are generally seen as “good” and you want your characters to be good. No one likes a character that will kick a puppy and laugh. Of course, steer clear of making them a goodie-two-shoes. Some character flaws do make them more “human.” Also, don’t be afraid of giving your villains some morals too. Just because you have a supervillain who wants to destroy the world doesn’t mean that they can’t have a moment of selflessness. How many times do we end up liking villains after they end up redeeming themselves by showing a selfless side to them? Think Shadow Weaver’s sacrifice of herself to save Adora and Catra in Netflix’s She-ra. Personally, I shed a tear at that.

Humor– whether they’re self-deprecating, snarky, or just plain silly, giving your characters some sort of sense of humor makes them relatable to readers. We all love to laugh. It’s the next universal language besides love. So, it only stands to reason that readers would gravitate towards characters that have a funny side to them. And so long as their humor is true to the character’s personality, it will resonate with audiences.

Self-Awareness– let’s face it, flawed characters are the best characters. But the key to a good flawed character is that they’ve got enough self-awareness to be able to say sorry once in a while for their shortcomings. Giving your characters, particularly your heroes and heroines, a moment of “yeah I know I’m an A-hole sometimes but I’m trying” can definitely help readers cut them some slack for some of their more morally questionable actions. 

Fear and Pain– having a character be motivated by their fear or their pain can definitely make them relatable to readers. How many of us in our everyday lives are motivated to action by pain and fear? That 20-page college paper we’ve all written the night before it’s due was definitely written on pure motivation from fear of failure and a painful lack of sleep. Having characters move through plot points based off their fear and pain will definitely make them relatable. After all, nothing is more human in this life than feeling pain and fear, which is why our characters must feel these things too. 

Author Interview with Isabella Cheung

Dragon Soul Press sat down with Author Isabella Cheung for an interview. She is a featured author in DSP’s Lost Love anthology.

  1. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I don’t think I really considered myself a ‘writer’ until I reached eleventh grade in high school. I’ve been writing for fun ever since I was a child, but I never really thought of it as something I could succeed in until I started doing it more. I was more-so into the fine arts (to specify, drawing) up until that year, when I took a Creative Writing course. Being in that class somewhat introduced me to writing for myself, rather than in a strictly academic fashion.

  1. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

My writing/creative process tends to come in little bursts, which makes it difficult to bang out an entire story all in one day. For me, good ideas tend to come late at night (a decent amount past midnight!), so I’m consistently stuck trying to decide whether to get a good night’s sleep or write! (It’s usually the latter).

  1. How do you come up with the titles to your books?

I usually don’t come up with a title until I’ve finished writing the story in its entirety, and even then, it can be somewhat difficult for me. I tend to try and pick-out words or phrases that catch my eye throughout the story.

  1. Who is your favorite character?

In the stories that I’ve written, my favorite character would probably be Irina, a fallen angel from my most recent story, An Angel’s Desire. From other series that I’ve read, my all-time favourite character would be Will Herondale from Cassandra Clare’s The Infernal Devices.

  1. Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

While I haven’t made much progress on it recently, having to balance different workloads, I am in the process of drafting my first novel, which will hopefully be part of a four-book series in the future.

  1. On a typical day, how much time do you spend writing?

Being an English Major, I tend to do a fair bit of academic writing throughout a typical day. I try to fit in at least fifteen minutes of writing in my free-time, whether that be planning for an upcoming project, or even a bit of drafting. Recently, I’ve had a bit of time off, so I have been writing a lot for my current WIP.

  1. Who is your favorite author and why?

I don’t think I could narrow it down to one author in particular, but a few whose works I tend to enjoy are: Cassandra Clare, Rick Riordan, Sarah J Maas, and Leigh Bardugo. Reading their stories is like stepping into an entirely different world and having the adventure of a lifetime. I think it’s cool to be able to read their books and think about the amount of planning and creativity it takes to invent these mystical worlds, and then apply it to my own writing.

  1. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Funnily enough, when I’m not writing I tend to be ingesting hockey in any sort of way (reading articles, scrolling through game highlights, etc.). I’m a huge fan of my hometown team, the Vancouver Canucks, and find the sport fascinating to watch. Playing it, on the other hand… it’s safe to say that I probably shouldn’t be put in skates too often!

  1. What are you reading now?

One of my friends recently managed to get me started on Sarah J Maas’s Throne Of Glass series, so I’m currently burning my way through those books. I’ve also recently read Stalking Jack the Ripper, by Kerri Maniscalco, and These Violent Delights, by Chloe Gong, both of which are great books for those who are big fans of mystery and historical fiction, like myself.

  1. Where can readers learn more about you?

I’m currently in the process of setting up a website for myself, but I’m available on Facebook, Instagram, and Linktree.

Author Interview with Ashley L. Hunt

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview Fairytale Dragons Author Ashley L. Hunt.


  1. Where do you get your inspiration?

My inspiration comes from a lot of places. Sometimes it’s a way I had wished another story ended. Some of it is adventures I would have loved going on, if they were possible. (Anyone know where I can team up with a dragon?) Sometimes characters just form and they need places to go.

  1. When did you start writing?

I was very young, I remember that. When I was 3 or 4, my brother and I would get all our toys and we would send them on these long epic odyssey to reach a goal. I didn’t think to set my stories to paper until I was 9 or so.

  1. What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?

Success to me is completing a task and getting some acknowledgement for it. It’s probably on the smaller scale of what success means to others, but it’s good for me.

  1. How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

It’s a little bit before and some after. I leave space to build as I go, but I have enough foundation for a solid world.

  1. Describe your perfect book hero or heroine.

A perfect book hero is someone who is flawed, someone who gets scared or isn’t always sure, but does their best anyway. For me, they need to do what they can to make the world better, and they learn a lesson on the way.

  1. What was the inspiration for the Fairytale Dragons story?

I’ve been studying fairy tales since I was a child and I absolutely love dragons. Cinderella is easy to mock because in today’s day and age she looks weak. It’s not fair because she was a brave and courageous young woman who stands up and she bears her part well. She deserves better and I hope I gave her that.

  1. What were the key challenges you faced when writing this story?

In the original, Cinderella is passive and docile. She reacts to the plot rather than inspiring it. The plot happens around her. So I had to give her an active role in the story. Her godmother is also this strange shadow in the background who shows up randomly then vanishes from the story again. (According to the French telling, she’s absent in the German and Italian) so an added challenge was to show a relationship with Cinderella and her godmother while giving her a reason to not help Cinderella.

  1. Who is your favorite author and why?

Favorite author is harder to pin because there are so many for a million different reasons. Madame Du’alnoy stands out among fairytale writers because she has a particular style to her writing that is rich but doesn’t bog down the story. My favorite book is the Wizard of Oz, by Lymen Frank Baum so of course he has a special place on.

  1. What was your dream job when you were younger?

I wanted to be a singer, but I can’t hold a note. My dog runs up to check if I’m dying.

  1. Where can readers learn more about you?

You can find me on Facebook.

View at Medium.com

Author Interview with Andrea J. Hargrove

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview Fairytale Dragons Author Andrea J. Hargrove.


  1. Who is the author you most admire in your genre?

The author I most admire in the fantasy genre is J.R.R. Tolkien because of the way he made his magical and fantastical stories feel real, especially in his Lord of the Rings trilogy and related works. He was able to draw on his own experiences fighting in a war when fleshing out the conflict in his stories, and more importantly, how that conflict affected both the soldiers and the civilians. Then he took that foundation and layered his own carefully-crafted world on top of that, including fully-realized histories, cultures, maps, and even his own invented languages. Finally, he put memorable, fully-formed characters into that world and gave them some incredible adventures. That level of craft and commitment is something I admire and aspire to.

  1. Do you listen to audiobooks?

I like to listen to audiobooks while I’m doing things like knitting, painting, or chores that take a long time, because I don’t want to keep stopping and re-starting the story. For the same reason, I don’t usually listen to them on my daily commute, but I usually play one or two on longer road trips.

  1. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Besides reading, I have a few different hobbies that help clear my head. I go on short walks almost daily and longer backpacking trips as time permits. I’ve recently started kayaking, too, in warm weather. Fortunately, I also like some things that can happen year-round. For instance, I like to dabble in various arts and crafts (without too much success so far, though that won’t stop me from experimenting). I also study kenjutsu and iaijutsu (samurai sword arts) at a nearby martial arts dojo.

  1. Where did you get your inspiration for the Fairytale Dragons story?

The timing of this anthology worked out really well for me. This year, library where I work had the Summer Reading Program theme of “Imagine Your Story”, celebrating fairy tales, fantasy, and mythology. As a result, I’ve been immersed in these since we started preparing last winter. We had to cancel or modify most of our programs due to quarantine, but the theme stayed the same, which made me happy, since it’s one of my favorites so far.

During this whole process, I brushed up on lots of old stories, and one that was on my mind when I saw the call for submissions to Fairytale Dragons was The Frog Prince. It seemed like a natural transition, since humans being transformed into animals is a common staple in a lot of fairytales, and someone being transformed into a dragon would create a whole new spectrum of problems. This is what I wanted to explore in The Golden Arrow. Before I started writing, though, I re-read a few different versions of the tale. I was most familiar with the version told by the Brothers Grimm, but it’s been retold many different ways in many different places. Besides the Grimm tale, I also drew inspiration from another German version and a tale from Russia called The Frog Princess.

  1. Are you currently working on anything new?

I’m simultaneously working on my first novel and putting the finishing touches on two more short stories that I’ll be submitting for consideration to upcoming fantasy anthologies.

  1. What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

Though he isn’t primarily known for his speculative fiction, I would want James Patterson as a mentor. He has an incredible ability to connect with readers across genres and age groups. At my library, I’ve talked to kids, teens, and adults who’ve all gotten hooked on his page-turners, and I think I’d have a lot to learn from him.

  1. What’s your favorite food?

Breads of any kind are my weakness, especially blueberry muffins. I try not to bake these too frequently, since they disappear far sooner than they should.

  1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Curious, quiet, & hopeful.

  1. What’s your favorite spot to visit in your own country?

Locally, there’s a park where I go to walk and to write a lot. I also like visiting relatives and spending time with them where they live, but besides these places, my favorite spot to visit is the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It’s packed full of stories from different people in different places and different times, and those stories are told in a beautiful way.

  1. Where can readers learn more about you?

On my blog, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Author Interview with Robert Prescott

Dragon Soul Press took a moment to interview All Dark Places 2 Author Robert Prescott.


1. What inspired you to start writing?

I caught the bug in high school through reading. I read a lot of fantasy and horror, and I was enthralled with the world building and relationships between the characters I was reading about. That led to me writing my own stories, which I’d bring to my creative writing teacher for feedback.

2. What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

Don’t do what I did. After high school I let writing fall by the wayside because of my career and other creative outlets like music. It was only in the last year or so that I rediscovered how much I love telling stories, and now that I’m refocused, I regret the time I lost. Aside from that, I’d say don’t be afraid to submit your work. Be confident in yourself and your story—all they can say is no, right? That doesn’t mean someone else won’t say yes. Lastly, make sure every part of your submission (the story, the body of your e-mail, your author bio) are all fully proofread and professionally presented.

3. How do you handle writer’s block?

How do you come up with the titles to your books? I’ve only written short stories so far, and I usually look for a common theme in the story to help me with the title. In The Cell Block, that theme was obvious since the entire story takes place in the town jail. I did the same thing for another story of mine titled Black Friday.

4. How do you do research for your books?

I’ve mostly used the internet to find what I need. It can be risky due to the loads of misinformation on the web, but if you take your time you can find a lot of good primary and secondary sources for your topic, and even peer reviewed articles if your story contains more technical or scientific aspects.

5. Who is your favorite author and why?

Stephen King. He’s probably the main author who inspired me to write. Any time I’m describing what a character is thinking or feeling during a scene, it’s because I read so much of that in his work.

6. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

When I’m not writing I’m either playing guitar (mostly rock and hard rock), gaming (PC, Xbox, or Switch), spending time with my girlfriend, or reading.

7. Favorite artist and favorite song?

Music is a huge part of my life—there are too many artists to pick a favorite! Right now I’ve got “Blood From Above” by Stryper on heavy rotation, and I’ve also been listening to a lot of Metallica, ZZ Top, and Rush.

8. What are you reading now?

I just started re-reading The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks.

9. What’s your favorite food?

Italian food, definitely. Manicotti, lasagna, and spaghetti are some of my favorites.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

My Amazon author page, Facebook author page, and lastly, my Instagram author account.