Don't you hate when you read a book and you just can't seem to root for the main character? Tons of thing happen to MC! But MC just gets swept along in the current, and somehow you can't seem to care.
If it's a character that is otherwise likeable, then I'd venture to say that, nine times out of ten, the reason you're not rooting for the character is because they don't have goals. They aren't working toward something. They haven't made a plan, or they aren't making forward progress.
I know this. It's a huge pet peeve of mine, actually. Yet I still did it.
My writing group and I meet weekly, and we submit a chapter each week. I had written the first draft of a section a couple weeks ago, then went back through to do a quick edit before sending it to my group. Something wasn't right with the chapter, and I could feel it. But I couldn't immediately see the problem, and I was already past my group's deadline, solidly encroaching on too-late-to-read territory. So I sent it. And, like every week, I was reminded why a writing group is so important. They pointed out that Hope didn't have a goal for the chapter. (Her previous goal had been lost in the chaos of a major natural disaster.)
There are huge book-encompassing goals. Ones that you lay out from the very beginning. They can even be series-encompassing goals. But sometimes the goal need only last a single scene or chapter. It may not change how the chapter starts or how it ends, but the presence of or lack of a goal will definitely change how much the reader roots for your character.
But it doesn't stop there. Goals also greatly affect pacing.
Have a part in your manuscript that seems to drag? Take a look at it. It's likely because there isn't any progress being made toward the end goal. Sometimes the answer lies in helping the MC to do things that help him/her to progress toward the goal. But sometimes things genuinely need to get in the way of that goal. If that's the case, see if there's a goal the MC can have-- even if it's only a goal that will last through that one chapter or that one scene. If they are making progress toward ANY goal-- be it the main goal or not-- it will help your reader root for your MC.
You probably already know all this. But as I learned last week, a reminder is worth its weight in... words, I guess. Happy writing! May your day be fabulous, and may all your characters be full of goals.
P.S. The clone I made of myself came out looking like a featherless chicken with one eyeball. It isn't pretty. Or functional, sadly. In an effort to siphon a few more hours a week, I'm only going to post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the next three weeks. So when a post doesn't go up in the wee hours tomorrow morning, know that I'm not dead. ;)