Creating Beloved Alien Characters

We all want and need to be liked, and readers want to fall in love with a beloved character. This is not to say that all literary characters must be loveable, or that all loveable characters must be perfect.

Counterintuitively, it is often quixotic quirks that make a character come alive, and become beloved.

One way an author might achieve this is to conjure a composite from those individuals they themselves long to be. They might create an alter ego superheroine, for instance. Like alien rights activist Rowan Layne does with Luna Moth Woman in my Other Worldly novel series.

Alternatively, a writer could create a character comprised of their own personal traits, wherein the challenge is to embrace the good and the bad.

We want our readers to love what we write, to essentially like us and what we offer them. Yet sometimes that means crafting a character that manifests our deepest selves, with faults and foibles entwined.

Beginning with Alienable Rights, I’ve strived to create aliens with a few all-too-human characteristics, as well as desirable traits we humans can learn from.

Readers need something to resonate with in the characters they meet between pages of a novel. One might be drawn to a dashing figure that’s funny, courageous, patient, or outspoken.

Characters who are too polished, who are never wrong or don’t make mistakes, are not beloved because they aren’t realistic. They’re annoying. No one falls in love with a character that makes them feel badly about not meeting unrealistic standards that don’t exist in actual human beings.

Furthermore, literary characters are supposed to overcome conflict, giving us trials and tribulations to root for or against. A champion to cheer for beyond that last chapter.

Ultimately, loving vicariously from the pages of a novel has its perks.

Author Tim Dorsey took this challenge to the stratosphere in creating Floridian Serge A. Storms, who happens to be a quirky serial killer psychopath—literally.  Yet somehow still a beloved, hilariously funny protagonist wreaking havoc against bad guys within dozens of books and counting.

Maybe it’s the maniacally creative way Serge crafts to kill off his prey. Or perhaps it’s because his targets are the biggest assholes roaming the Sunshine State, revolting creatures one has experienced all too often in real life, inwardly hoping they will meet the kind of karma Dorsey’s protagonist dishes out.

Serge engages in retribution well-earned, bringing a sense of satisfaction for the poetic justice and righteousness of it all, even as you sneer at the bad guys—and sometimes cringe as you chuckle at the murderous good guy. You’ve got to love Serge!

Dorsey’s Serge A. Storms story I most recently read was Tropic of Stupid: A Novel, which says it all for me. Every time I think I might run out of issues and conflicts to bring forth in my Other Worldly novels, humans go and unleash myriad storms of stupid on any given day.

I have not been quite so ambitious as Dorsey in drafting quirky characters for novels, but I have crafted most aliens—as in extraterrestrial beings—to be inherently likeable and approachable. This is deliberately in direct contrast to marauding evil overlords intent on taking over Earth as seen in most movies, and as many readers seem to expect.

When it comes to my human hybrid protagonist, Rowan Layne is doing her damnedest to shed social norms about a what a woman of a certain age should be—and should say and do.

She’s not a typical female of child-bearing age seen in many novels. Rowan’s got gravity wreaking havoc on her body while the gravitas of an alien-hating cult weighs heavily on her psyche.

Aliens from other worlds aren’t perfect either, but they’ve made an effort to learn from history, and generally aren’t the vengeful, violent creatures humans inevitably project them to be.  Is it any wonder Rowan loves them for it?

Coming soon, Being Alien, fourth novel in the Other Worldly series, wherein Rowan learns of yet another quirky but loveable species while traveling the Highlands of Scotland. She comes to realize that even species with specials powers do not have the ability to compel others to love them.

In novels with supernatural creatures, it’s still all about the eye of the beholder.

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