Finding Relatable Characters in Books

Sonia Akavan
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About the Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars is incredible. It’s about a young girl named Hazel who is battling cancer in her lungs and who has lost her hair to the chemotherapy. Still, she’s a lively, witty, intelligent teenager.

Hazel goes to cancer support group where she meets Gus who is a young boy who’s also battling cancer. He’s lost his leg and is unable to walk without a metal machine. The two of them develop a connection that is far beyond the illness they are dealing with in life.

This book is about facing life while dealing with a terrible disease that most likely will not end well for the character. Hazel is a smart, quick-witted and strong-willed girl and her journey in the book is one of hope and resilience.

I saw a movie version of The Fault in Our Stars recently and loved it. The writing in this book is amazing and I highly recommend you read it, especially if you are dealing with or have dealt with, cancer first hand.

Relatable Characters in the Fault in Our Stars

This book by John Green is the kind that makes you weep. It actually made me not want to finish it, just because I didn’t want the story to be over. It’s a story about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love.

It’s rare to find books that are easy to relate to, but John Green does it with his characters. Most of his characters are teenagers or in their twenties. He writes the story about what it’s like to be that age and love in this way. As he says in an interview, “I like to think that what fiction does is that it tells you about yourself in a way that’s illuminating.”

One of the things that make his characters relatable is that he doesn’t always portray the main character as smart. In fact, the main female character, Hazel, goes to a cancer support group, not because she’s bored, but she’s sick of being surrounded by other smart people who seem to know how to find the meaning of life. She didn’t even finish high school.

Why I Relate (Chronic Illness)

I’ve always been a real bookworm and love every bit of the reading experience from the aroma of the pages and the print of the words to the smooth transition of turning a page. The sensation of the paper when you turn the page transfers directly into excitement as you embark on a new chapter with the characters you love.

Few books have touched and changed me as profoundly as “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank. I read it when I was first introduced to the book in eighth grade English class, and it started a passion for reading and writing in me. Later on, my parents told me that the book was about a young girl who was forced to go into hiding because she was Jewish. This was quite shocking to me because this was the spoiler that my 10-year-old mind kept trying to guess.

I cried and felt an overwhelming sense of fear and sadness. When I grew up, my dad told me that my mother was also a Jewish girl who had escaped from the Holocaust. I was so moved by this revelation.

That’s how my mother was able to relate to teens who are going through the same situation and how we can relate to traumatizing situations from fiction.

Another Book With Relatable Characters

There are countless characters in any piece of writing. But as a writer, you only really want to develop two or three main characters that you have the most space and time to develop.

However, you need to know that a writer is a storyteller and not a reporter. An important piece of his job is to show the reader what the characters are going through on a deeper level and how that changes their actions and their story.

To do that, he needs to develop what his characters are likely to do emotionally at a given moment. The way most writers develop characters with emotional depth is by creating characters that are some kind of a combination and/or exaggeration of different traits.

This can be accomplished by humans playing make-believe with themselves, by developing a character that the writer believes each person has the potential to become, or by creating an exaggerated rendition of a real person.

There are some authors, for example, that caricature each person that they dislike. This may sound quite harsh. But let’s not forget that many of the characters in the great stories created are actually based on and therefore caricatures of real people.

The goal of the author is to exaggerate the traits that he views as negative in order to show his readers how those traits have a tendency to push the characters into an unwanted direction.

Relatable Characters Understand ME!

Books are magical vessels transporting you into the lives of the story’s characters. The goal is to relate to them. You laugh when they laugh, you cry when they cry.

When you reach the end of the story, you feel a sense of loss. When a story is great, the characters become real in your mind. They live on through you.

If you don’t experience this, it may be because of the type of story you’re reading. If the book is full of chase scenes and explosions, the stuff that leaves you cold may be the action and excitement of the story.

On the other hand, the characters that you relate well to are the characters whose lives, struggles and experiences are similar to your own. They inspire and relate to you. You feel their emotions and their pain.

Several critically acclaimed authors have an uncanny ability to reach out to audiences that identify with the stories they write.

J.K. Rowling skillfully brought out the vulnerability and compassion of Harry in the Harry Potter series. Anne Frank’s diary showed the horrors of persecution and bullying to a young generation. And Judy Blume’s descriptions of girls fighting their personal battles helped many girls manage their own.