What makes a character “relatable”?

There’s an interview over at Comic Book Resources with Marc Guggenheim, comic book writer and executive producer of the “Arrow” TV series, and in this bit he talks about the factors that contribute to a character becoming “relatable” for the audience:

“The advantage we have as a television show over the comic book version is that we created a whole cast of characters around Oliver to help him be more relatable. Truth be told, in the comics Green Arrow’s basically had Black Canary, and that’s been the extent of his supporting cast — he’s had Roy, but we went to great lengths to give him a sister, a best friend, a mother, [and bodyguard] Diggle. He doesn’t have any of those things in the comics and when you talk about what makes a character relatable, I’d say it’s the people around him,” Guggenheim said. “If I were to tackle the comic book as a writer the first thing I would try to do is give him a supporting cast. That would help elaborate on his character.”

Here, he’s referring to the latest Green Arrow series (the “New 52”), which has already gone through 3 creative team changes in less than 20 issues. And I think he’s absolutely right. Whether you like the TV show or not, there’s no denying that they have built up a very strong set of supporting characters, through whose eyes we see Oliver in different lights. This allows them a greater opportunity to explore his different sides, and show his changing attitudes and motivations.

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2 thoughts on “What makes a character “relatable”?

  1. Man, I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. “Relatability” is one of those things that sounds really fakey if you’re trying to reverse-engineer it into a character. But if your character isn’t “relatable,” you definitely feel it.

  2. Yeah, there’s definitely no formula or silver bullet for it. I guess the best you can do is explore the many facets of your character, thereby making them as three dimensional and “real” as possible, and hope that your audience can see some part of themselves in the character, and be invested in him/her.

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