Don’t you hate criticism that leads you to a lot of head scratching, but little to no idea how to fix the issue?
I had a beta reader – yes just one, tell me my character was nearly unlikable. I sort of wanted to cry. That wasn’t going to get me anywhere though. I had to stop and think. Why did beta reader A think that. The character is cynical and she has every right to be that way. She is throwing around sarcastic comments like they are as common as air. She can’t see anything for what it is and men, well men just drive the nail into her emotional coffin of mad.
So I asked myself: is her entire outlook unlike any other woman scorned? No. She is who she is and she isn’t happy. What I had to do was make it more apparent as to why she was so sarcastic about everything around her that day. I had to figure out why it is the reader couldn’t identify or at least see why it is that she was acting out in her emotional tornado. That’s when it hit me. I was missing the inciting incident!
It better be apparent to your reader sooner rather than later what the catalyst is to your characters actions. The middle of a story is too late to explain why Fred is up and leaving, or why Sally was running in the rain, or why Ted just robbed a liquor store. You can have undesirable traits in characters – heck they are supposed to be someone real so they better not be perfect. The issue is making the cause for the not so positive traits visible to the reader.
In the first 3 chapters your inciting incident better be apparent.
Have you had any experiences with this confusing the reader because you didn’t make it clear or put it in too late?