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The protagonist in my novel so far comes from a different world to the other characters. Both are fantasy worlds, though his has an entirely different magic system. He is about 14-15 years old.

He is not very easy to like (at least for characters in the story), is very proactive, and has a personality that is very much molded by his society's obsession with 16 ideals. (Honesty, Creativity, Individuality, Mimicry, Dignity, Humility, Triumph, Erudition, Honour, Levity, Justice, Thrill, Assimilation, Maverick, Forgiveness, Survival).

He has trouble with sarcasm, is often flippant and rude (but grows quieter and more respectful in front of someone with known authority over him) he doesn't follow the guidelines and paths people lay out for him, has munchkin tendencies, enjoys puzzles and chocolate, talks to girls a little more stiffly, is intelligent and physically weak, and is an easily stressed perfectionist.

People who have read what I have written so far don't view him as very human, and fairly unrelatable.

How do I humanize him for my readers?

  • Look up the phrase "save the cat" for some advice. – J.G. Mar 11 '18 at 22:16
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There are several things you could do.

One of my first suggestions would be to make the character flawed. You mentioned that he has problems with being sarcastic and rude. That's great! Humans aren't perfect. It makes him relatable to have problems.

Next, give him struggles. Not necessarily traditional story struggles likes fighting baddies, but maybe his father was a drunk. Maybe he suffers from epilepsy or some other disease. Characters with problems are relatable. I think Ender is Ender's Game is a good example of this. He is a eccentric and smart, but due to his struggles he is relatable.

Study people. Try to model him after actual people who remind you of him. You may not be directly model the character after someone, but if the character is at least loosely based on someone, I think the reader will see that.

Finally, think if your character needs to seem human. My main character in my current book is boring and bland, but I use him to show the events the book. he works for what the story is. Maybe, in your situation, it would be better if the character didn't even feel human. If he isn't likeable, it could help him to be more intriguing if he wasn't very human.

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Question: How do I humanize him for my readers?

Answer:

First:

I think he needs a reason for his flaws, a reason a human would experience, a reason beyond the fact that he comes from somewhere else. (unless somewhere else is Earth).

Think of relatable human experience and craft the flaws in your character to those.Relatable experience is: being bullied, being rejected, etc.

For example: A character who has trouble committing to others ... is flawed (and maybe unlikeable) ... but if that difficulty is because he was jilted by someone in the past, someone he truly loved, then he is more relatable.

Your character's flaws need to stem from issues your readers can relate to.

  1. He wasn't allowed to own a cell phone and so he doesn't know any social conventions.

  2. He was bullied and so he is sarcastic as a defense mechanism.

  3. He's physically weak because the sport he actually wanted to participate in is not acceptable on his planet.

Second:

Your spellings are British so I don't know what cultural ideals in your list fit within your own culture. In the US, individuality and triumph would be the two ideals most readers would at least recognize as valued cultural aspirations. SO, if you want to work off that list, try that too, for whatever culture you plan to market in (or a few).

Example: Most US kids feel like complete failures by the time they're teenagers because they aren't pop stars. They all got little trophies for things like breathing from the time they were 3 (because ... self esteem!) and they don't understand when they don't become famous by the time they're 12. It doesn't help that every disney/nickelodeon show is about 12 year olds having exotic famous lives. Most US teens would at least identify with a kid who thought they needed to triumph - and never did.

Summary:

Bottom line: Pull in actual events that humans on earth work with and mold them to your world. Craft relatable events as the reasons why your character has the flaws you identified.

Final note:

An overarching moral choice is also incredibly useful for hook-ability; see recent answers by Mark Baker. As a testimonial to this idea, when I hammered my MC from 'running from something awful" to "figuring out how to save something he loved" readers connected with him better. The plot stayed the same, but I recast his motivations to something he was working towards, saving someone he cared about. Instead of running from his problems, he took time away from his problems to figure out how to 'save' that person. Same plot, different motivation, seems to work better for readers.

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The protagonist in my novel so far comes from a different world to the other characters.

You've defined him as an "other" character. Are you sure he is meant to be humanized (relatable) in this situation?

I see two options to get readers to have sympathy for him. The reader follows his experience as a normal person in a bizarre land. His reactions, speech, and mannerisms are all recognized by the reader, while everyone else in this strange world behaves in accordance with their customs which are unfamiliar to him/us. The reader learns about the world through his eyes. Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy in Oz, Crichton in Farscape are all this protagonist. They do not necessarily act/react as the reader would, but we understand their cultural references and values even when the other characters are scratching their heads. That's a kind of emapthy even if we don't really like him.

The other option is that readers recognize the world as our own, and all the supporting characters are "typical" people. It's the Stranger who is the oddball, but the reader relates with sympathy when he doesn't understand our real-world dichotomies and hypocrisies. Edward Scissorhands, Wonder Woman/Thor, and probably Jesus Christ are all this character. Their observations of the world are usually simplified to state social criticisms the reader will recognize. He forces the other characters to see problems in our society that we would normally choose to ignore.

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