One of the tasks I have for my revision is to make my main character likeable.
And as I am doing this, I've realized something. I always make my main characters unlikeable in the first draft.
Well, I think I have my reasons for doing this and I'm going to attempt to explain.
Here's the thing. I hate flat characters. As should you all! I dislike Mary Sues. I like following characters-- especially main characters--that have flaws, that are imperfect, that make mistakes and that have many layers.
And a first draft is basically just that----a layer--a first try at understanding your character. And typically, mine come with only one layer (at least I only truly express one layer on paper) before I go back and add in more.
I know what makes my characters good. I know the bravery they hold inside, their willingness to make sacrifices to do the right thing, their spark of life, the way they care and nurture the ones they love, their sense of humor, their goodness.
But I also know what's hidden deep inside. Their ugly bits. The parts of their personality they try to hide, their selfishness, their fears. The secrets they wouldn't share with another soul unless it was their absolute best friend in the whole world. I LOVE them for those bad parts. And I tend to lay all that ugliness and secretiveness on the paper. Because it exists and it has to be there to make them real.
And then when I revise...I start to cover them up. I add muscles of personality to their bare ugly bones, and give them skin and clothing to hide how afraid they truly are.
It's kind of a backwards technique. And luckily I have critique partners who are able to say, "you know your MC is really unlikeable" but still see where I'm going with the character and trust they'll be the one you love and root for once I revise.
But the thing is--you have to LOVE your characters. If you don't love them, don't love reading about them and writing them, how will anyone else love them? And how can you truly love them if you've only seen their good side? I figure, if I can love these guys when they're at their worst--AKA draft 1--then how much more will I love them when they're at their best.
All characters need to grow--I think especially in children's literature. I know this isn't always true in literary fiction and I find the stagnation hard to swallow. But for your characters to truly grow, they need to have room for it--they need to have some parts of themselves they have to conquer. Some way to learn more about themselves and to be better. It's tough (I think) to add those elements in. But starting with them makes it simple.
So there's one of my quirks. Drafting unlikeable characters while knowing they deserve to be liked, though they won't be for awhile.
What about you guys? How do your main characters look in the first draft?