Why Writing Characters that Readers Identify with is the Most Important Thing You Can Do as a Writer

Netflix

Umbrella Academy television series has a great plot. The dialogue is witty and sometimes profound. The acting is superb. The scenes are great cinematography. Why can’t I get into it? I’m not their target audience. I’m a woman in her forties, a mother, and a writer. I’m no longer a person seeking the approval or love of a parent. I am the parent, so I don’t identify with the theme of adults getting over their childhood trauma.

After a rewatch of episode one and part of episode two, I figured out what it is about the show that keeps me from getting hooked. The first episode doesn’t focus on a single character’s story long enough for me to get emotionally involved, or at least the character I would identify with.

I think, as a mother, I would have identified with Allison Hargrave the most. Her story is glanced over in favor of the others. It’s mentioned, but not delved into. Whereas, the other characters, have spotlights into their pasts. She seems written as a love interest for Luther. I may have also identified with “Mom”, Grace Hargrave, but she’s a peripheral character meant to show Diego, despite his fiery nature, is a good and caring son. I think as a queer, I may have identified with Klaus Hargrave, but he’s only explored on the surface level too. I don’t find myself an unspecial girl among talented siblings so, nope, Vanya doesn’t do it for me either.

Argue all you want about it being about the quality of writing, but this is the true reason some people are not fans of Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey, or any story with angsty protagonists. No matter how good the plot, dialogue, or , there is something in our brain that says, not relatable, not interested.

Umbrella Academy is a good show, but it is not one I connect with. I’ll keep watching with my family because they like it for their own reasons, all the while hoping that Allison and how she rose to stardom and lost her family is more developed.





Published by Tammy Deschamps

Tammy loves to build worlds with words, exploring themes the effect of diaspora on the generations born elsewhere than their ancestors with the backdrop of tech or magic and dragons (sometimes both). These stories are inspired by her own family's immigrant experience. She's queer and many of her characters fall somewhere on the LGBTQIA spectrum (though that is not the focus of her work). She's married to an engineer who dances. Together they are raising three precocious teens in the Seattle suburbs. Two of her children are neurodiverse. Her experiences have taught her as much about the world, its beauties and its injustices. All of this comes through in her fiction with a healthy dose of absurd humor.

9 thoughts on “Why Writing Characters that Readers Identify with is the Most Important Thing You Can Do as a Writer

  1. Season 2 is available on Netflix. Have you gotten to it yet? I haven’t but plan to watch one episode at a time and follow up with ‘Strange Indeed,’ a podcast that is covering the series. I don’t identify with the characters either, but it might help me write YA dialogue better.

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    1. I don’t know about YA dialogue since they’re adults, even Number Five is middle-aged in a young body. However, the dialogue in general is well-written.
      I haven’t seen all of season one because I lost interest. I really wanted them to get better than writing just avatars of women. The nerdy awkward girl, popular girl, and the mom tropes isn’t awesome compared to the complexity they gave the male characters.
      I’m rewatching with my youngest and even she can only tolerate an episode a day because I like analyzing what’s popular and why.

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      1. If you’re talking about genre, YA, young adult is 14-16 year old protagonists. New Adult is 18-22-ish range. They are young, but adults. I think the point is that people who suffer childhood trauma don’t grow up to be functioning adults. They remain hurt children, unless they get therapy and learn coping skills.

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      2. I agree with that. They are not functioning adults, with special abilities to boot. Thanks for the genre break down Tammy. I stretched YA a little older than it should be. We’ll see if they get any help in season 2.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Looked up their ages:
        Five – 58 Years Old.
        Klaus – 34 Years Old.
        Allison – 31 Years Old.
        Luther – 31 Years Old.
        Diego – 29 Years Old.
        Vanya – 29 Years Old.
        Ben – 16 Years Old.

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