SECRETS in Creating a Likeable HERO Character

cya-alligator1SQUEE! I can’t believe the incredible feedback I received from the CYA Writing Competition for JOSH AND THE IT! I scored a perfect 100% from one of the judges for Book 1, of the Super Space Kids series.

What did the CYA judge say about JOSH AND THE IT?

“Loved the cheeky tone – it’s so hip and now. You know your audience! Really appreciate reading a story like this – well polished, professional set out and best of all – a story that is fabulous! Well done.”

The other judge suggested I was almost there, but needed to make JOSH more likeable.  Josh was brash and cheeky.

What should I do?

Weeks ago, I  emailed a revised version of JOSH AND THE IT to crit buddies for advice. They too suggested JOSH needed to change, confirming CYAs recent feedback. I redrafted JOSH AND THE IT to create a stronger JOSH, a more likeable lead character, who the reader can instantly identify with.

I decided to tone down JOSH’s brashness so he’d gain wider appeal. A special thanks to crit buddies Judi, Dimity, Charmaine, Bren and the CYA judges for your awesome advice.

What are the SECRET # 10 Traits of a HERO?

1. Identify with the Reader: Introduce him on page one via his thoughts, dialogue and actions so the reader can relate to him instantly. The reader needs to know the protagonist’s goals and motivations straight away.

2. Empathize: Allow the reader to empathize and sympathize with the hero, really care about him. He could be an underdog with some endearing flaws.

3. Humour: Let the main character deliver humour on the very first page, to win the reader over. A character who makes us grin is a character we’ll like.

4. Action: Heroes are characterized by action. The hero actually does things. He or she doesn’t sit around watching things happen, or waiting for situations to resolve themselves.

5. Morality: A hero represents the values of the community. They defy evil and save the world. They stick up for the geeks, and believe in fair play. They hate bullies.

6. Selflessness: We love characters who go out of their way to protect others.

7. Loved by Others: Give your hero a sidekick and a team. If someone is loved by someone else, it establishes the character as someone worthy of love.

8. Compassion: Your main character must show an underlying kindness and desire to uplift and help others.

9. Bravery: Even when scared and nervous, the hero needs to put his life on the line again and again.

10. Determination: Your main character must never give up, no matter how many brick walls challenges he encounters.

I’m proud to say, JOSH now ticks all those hero boxes. Parents, librarians and teachers will decide if they’re going to buy JOSH on the first page and more importantly publishers and editors will to. I’m glad I made those positive changes, so important in a children’s book.

Did you check your main character against the hero checklist?

How did your character go? Has anyone told you your character is NOT likeable? How did you change your character to be more likeable?


I sent off submissions of the brand new JOSH AND THE IT to publishers for consideration.

Hope a publisher LOVES this version and offers me a publishing contract … Fingers double-crossed this will be THE one! xx  xx

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16 comments to SECRETS in Creating a Likeable HERO Character

  • Sylvia

    Congrats Karen… for the fabulous results from CYA. Good luck with the publisher. Hope you get published soon !

  • Thanks Sylvia, I’ve worked hard over the last year taking advice and developing Josh and the It. Hope this is the “Final Edit”.

  • That is fantastic feedback Karen-good luck!

  • Thanks Rebecca, Loved the feedback from CYA AND my crit buddies. Feeling very grateful … Waiting to hear what the publishers says now 🙂

  • Excellent news Karen, Josh and the It will be on shelves soon!

  • Thanks Charmaine for your vote of confidence and for your invaluable feedback. I really appreciate your “techno savvy” eyes and the time you spent, knowing you’re right in the middle of moving and marking exam papers

  • Excellent, excellent, excellent Karen! Well done. I feel kinda proud and so chuffed for you. Spookily just explaining to my other half how next year I’m going to focus on listening, acting, and reinforcing all of the valuable feedback I’ve gardnered this year on my mss and make them ‘happen’. Your (imminent) success is my timely reminder to keep on keeping on. Good on you girl.

  • Thanks Dimity for being an awesome crit buddy with your honest feedback on Josh’s character. You were the first to pick up that he needed to change. Hope I can return the Crit buddy favour sometime. Look forward to reading your kids stories.

  • Kaz Delaney

    Woo Hoo! Congratulations, Karen. Not just on the fabbo scores, but for taking all that advice on board and workng to make Josh as fabulous as he can be.

    I have everything crossed for you,kiddo.

  • Thanks so much Kaz for dropping by 🙂
    I was so used to the brash, overconfident Josh, I didn’t “Notice” he lacked some of the Likeable traits.
    Now he’s the loveable underdog, with nerdy traits galore. Thanks to CYA judges and crit buddies for pointing that out.

    Thanks for all the crossings … Hoping the publisher will LOVE the new Josh 🙂

  • Way to go Karen! I’ve found the CYA competition to be incredibly helpful and motivating.
    I’m glad you’ve got so much out of too. All the best 🙂

  • Hi Renee, I LOVE the CYA competition. Its given me confidence, knowing I’m on the right track. Thanks for your good luck wishes and I’m multiplying them back to you for your picture book manuscripts 🙂

  • Judi

    The power of affirmation by CYA must be soooo encouraging, both knowing you are on the right track and in recognition of all the hard work done -all the best with the next step -XOX

  • Thanks Judi for all your awesome Crit buddy edits, suggestions and advice you’ve given me for JOSH. Thanks too for the thorough proof reading and checking all the “new bits”. I really appreciate our working partnership and hope to see our books become published soon x 🙂

  • That was really excellent advice Karen. I will save your list if I can for future reference – if I feel like I’m lacking something in my protagonist. I live in Perth WA and completed my Masters in Writing in 2006. Since then I have felt rather isolated from the writing community, so it’s great to find this website and group of Oz writers. Am currently trying to write NaNoWriMo novel, but too many interruptions to settle to it daily. S i g h . . . Doing so in an odd style for me as well – not sure where it’s going right now. lol Maybe you could check it out and comment for me – it might help. Jud

  • Thanks Jud, for checking out my website and my ‘Top Tips to a Likeable hero”. I wish you all the best with your NaNoWriMo novel. I’ll check out your website too 🙂

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