As part of The Great Blogging Experiment by Jen, Elana, and Alex , here is my contribution.
So with all the hype surrounding Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I placed my holds at the library and read the books. The whole series. I wanted to understand the craze. And I have to admit, I laughed . . . even harder when my six-year-old was rolling on the ground in hysterics.
But confession. The main character annoyed me to no end! I got to the end of the first book and wondered why I should feel bad for his situation. The last incident was an attempt to make him likable, but I wasn't convinced. I kept reading the series, and found each book worse than the last in that regard. Don't get me wrong. Yes, they were funny. But the character is a jerk! It made me wonder if I even want my kids reading it some day.
In contrast, take Charlotte from Charlotte's Web. She's a spider for goodness sake! I hate spiders. (Surely you remember this post on the subject). But I love Charlotte. I cry at the end every stinkin' time. And why? Because this character reaches outside of her meager existence to make a difference in the world. She thinks less of herself and more of others.
And no, not all characters will be like that. Nor do they have to be to be compelling. There are a lot of ways to write a compelling character, and I won't (nor even can I in this limited space) cover them here. But one way to make a character compelling is to give them something to love. Something outside of themselves. Something they are willing to fight for. Sacrifice everything for.
Those are the characters who have influenced me the most and compel me to keep reading. What makes a character compelling to you?