I'm a big Sandra Bullock fan. Ever since she burst on the scene in the fabulous movie Speed (if you haven't seen it go to a DVD rental shop right now and enjoy) I've pretty much enjoyed every movie she's ever made. Loved When You Were Sleeping (one of my favourite rom coms ever). Thought the first Miss Congeniality was a laugh out loud riot. Even her small role in Crash was memorable for her dramatic turn. She is one of the few female actresses that both my husband and I agree on because she's just so gosh darn LIKEABLE. Why? What is it about the characters she chooses to portray - and portray so well - that makes me want to be her BFF?
I just saw THE BLIND SIDE on the weekend and was once again struck by that undefineable likeability she has that translates so well on screen. The character she portrays would not be someone I would normally gravitate towards - rich, opinionated, religious, slightly bullying Desperate Housewives type of personality. BUT. And here's the but - the character is not just that stereotype. As always, Sandra Bullock injects certain qualities into the performance that make us love her character. And every writer should think about these qualities when developing their own main characters because, as we know, we only have a few pages- heck, maybe even just a few paragraphs - to make the reader care about our hero or heroine. So what does Sandra Bullock always have that makes me want to stick around for a couple of hours with her and her character even if the movie isn't perfect?
There's just a feeling I get that Sandra Bullock knows how to laugh at herself and not take herself too seriously. Many of the characters she chooses to portray also have that quality.
The protectiveness for another person or a cause is always there in her movie choices. She cares about others more than herself sometimes.
She walks into a crime-ridden neighbourhood looking for her runaway adopted son. She drives a bus with a bomb on it. You get the feeling that she would do anything to protect the ones she's responsible for.
She'll fight for the right thing - even if her friends laugh at her or thinks she's crazy. Just watch the scene she has with her so called friends at the restaurant in The Blind Side. She never gets nasty or reacts in anything other than a polite, cordial manner. But you know that she has just written them all off based on their response to her decision to become Mike's guardian. She will do what she thinks is right because she believes it is right.
Being the Underdog or Fighting for the Underdog
She's a lowly subway ticket taker who doesn't have a family and is looking for love. She's a nobody bus rider who lost her license for speeding and is now responsible for driving a bus safely through congested Los Angeles by not going over the speed limit of 50. She takes in a homeless, poverty stricken kid from the wrong side of town and becomes his guardian for no other reason except that he doesn't have anybody. Underdog is a big, big likeability factor.
The qualities I've just listed aren't the be all and end all of character traits that a writer should consider when developing their main hero or heroine but boy, you should pick a couple of them because they go a long, long way in keeping a reader engaged and rooting for your creation. It doesn't mean you can't have some unlikeable qualities thrown in there too. Like I said, in The Blind Side Sandra was also pampered, overbearing, and somewhat self-absorbed … BUT she tempered those less likeable qualities with all the ones I listed above.
Now, the tricky thing is how do you hint at all those qualities in less than five pages? Ahh. I think that might be fodder for another blog post...