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  1. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you have to love your characters?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Tesoro, Feb 7, 2011.

    Have you ever had a MC that you really disliked?
    Is it even possible to write a story about a person that you cannot feel the slightest sympathy for? is it wise to make such an unlikable character or will the readers probably put the book aside when they get to know him/her? i mean a person you cannot relate to or understand, that might be violent or mean or just weird in an unsympathetic way... probably he /she will have some less repulsing parts of their personality, but it might not be enough to get to know or make the readers understand them.
     
  2. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I once purposly made a MC unlikable, then killed her at the end of the first chapter, and made a side-character the main. But other than that... I don't think I could write a story with an MC I didn't like. Even when I write about evil monsters (which is what I usually do), they need to be likable and relatable somehow. I am more likely to put humans in a bad light, to be honest.

    If I'm writing something, and I don't like the MC, I either remake them or drop the entire story, depending on how much I like the story :p
     
  3. FictionAddict
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    FictionAddict Senior Member

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    Well, I think that if YOU don't love your character, than it should be very hard to write about him. When you dislike a person, you can't stand being close to him for long, right? It should work the same with your characters.

    When I read your post, Wuthering Heights immediately popped into my mind. I'm sure that Emile Bronte had a major background that made her love and care for Heathcliff and Cathy. For us, she shows their bad side mostly, and that didn't prevent the novel to turn into a classic worshiped for decades.

    The main character of my novel is evil and mean, but he has a reason to be that way. That reason shows throughout the book, so that the readers will understand him with time. I love him, because I know his reasons.

    Maybe you should sketch a profile of your charaters before writing the novel, or story. This will help you sympathize and go forward.
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I think it's good to not love your MC too much; if you're enamored with him/her, it's easy to make him/her seem overly cool and/or give him/her lucky breaks all the time. Even if you don't fall into Mary Sue territory, characters are always more dimensional if they have negative traits.

    Most readers will put down a book if they realize they hate the MC within the first chapter or two. However, if you show the flaws slowly so the MC"s personality takes longer to develop, readers are more likely to give your MC a chance.

    It really depends on what said unfavorable qualities are, though.
     
  5. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's very important to be able to sympathise/empathise with your characters, whether you like them or not. If you don't, then you can't completely understand them, if you ask me. The key to well-rounded characters is knowing what makes them tick, even when the reader doesn't.

    A good example of this would be Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men. The character Curley is a total a-hole, but the character Slim reveals to us exactly why Curley acts that way. We understand that he isn't just mean for the sake of it; he has a deep-seated issue with his own manliness, and needs to constantly prove himself against bigger guys.

    Steinbeck probably hated Curley like the rest of us, but empathised none the less. I guess it's a lot like parenting in its own way.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, it is possible to write a character that you don't like, and in fact you can write one that the reader will never like either.
     
  7. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know. I could write about a character who is truly evil, and obviously not sympathise with them...
     
  8. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've had problems where I didn't sympathise enough with the main character, even when they were meant to be good, to enjoy writing them, and so I always underdeveloped them because I was annoyed. For that novel I switched to a different character who playfully points out everything I hated about the old main character, and I'm actually understanding her a bit better now because he understands her better than I do. :p Likewise, he seemed a bit cold and mean from her point of view, but now I'm telling it from his, it's easier to see he cares, just... not for her. :p

    I've never deliberately tried writing an unsympathetic character, mostly because I either see it as looking too much like trying hard to be shocking under my unsubtle pen, or because I mostly write silly things that I want people to like, because I'm a big attention whore rather than an artist. :D
     
  9. Silver_Dragon
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    Silver_Dragon Senior Member

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    I agree that it's important to empathise with your main character. As for other characters in the book, I think understanding them is important even if you don't necessarily empathise.

    I have put books down because I didn't like the main character, usually because they had some annoying quality or their flaws outweighed the likeable aspects of their personality, but without making them interesting or sympathetic enough to keep me reading. I've read one fantasy series where I felt the author successfully pulled off writing an anti-hero (who only ever acted in self-interest throughout the series and was a terrible person, yet managed to be sympathetic to the reader anyway).
     
  10. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you don't like the characters, odds are the reader won't either. If you aren't okay with that, like your character. I don't understand how you can expect your reader to feel something you cannot feel.

    As for liking characters making you give them lucky breaks, tell that to the pile of dead characters I liked. :p
     
  11. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think we should make a diffence. Liking and loving the character vs enjoying it.

    A good example is Disney villains. You don't love Scar, or Jafar, or Frollo but you enjoy every moment you watch and hear them. You might detest them, but you still enjoy them immensely.

    A main character like that would work, but it hard line to walk to make a character that enjoyable as well as detestable.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that you have to have empathy for your main character, and ideally even for less important characters, even if you don't actually like them. If you can't get inside their heads, then I think that you can't make them convincing. And even more difficult, I think that it's important to understand, and empathize with, your villains' hatred for your heroes.
     
  13. Vance
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    Vance Member

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    It doesn't really make a difference. Agatha Christie hated Poirot, and that had no effect on her ability to make him likable to the readers.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, I never liked Poirot - the only Poirot novels that I enjoy are the ones that also include Mrs. Oliver. And I loved Miss Marple. I think that the author's dislike of the character made a difference.
     
  15. Vance
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    Fair point, but the reason she kept writing about Poirot though is that her fans loved him so much. She once said this about him:

    I recall reading(I think it was from her biography, but I could be mistaken) that she hated Poirot with all her heart, but most of her readers preferred him to Miss Marple.

    The truth is that they appealed to different demographics. The too clever by half readers preferred Poirot, while the not-as-egomaniac readers preferred Miss Marple.

    Most of her fans fell on the first category, which is why Poirot was so popular(much to her dismay).
     
  16. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm incredibly fascinated by Christie having loathed Poirot so much. I really admire her willpower in sticking with his contemptible characteristics. Then again, she was savvy enough to recognise the inherent value in the franchise.

    As for loving your main character, I think it's more important to know what makes them tick, even if their primal motivation makes you a bit uncomfortable. If every writer loved their main character it would show and in all likelihood would be alienating to readers. After all, you wouldn't want horrible things to happen to someone you adore. It might even lead you to avoid making controversial choices. Then again, it would be really difficult to write a character that didn't at least embody part of your own personality. It may even be the part of your own character that you find is the most suppressed for whatever reason. Even when your main character does something immoral, you still must feel like you are rooting for them. I think this connection (or even empathy) is more important than outright liking or loving your protagonist.
     
  17. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have a main character who is thoroughly unsympathetic... but still fascinating, so he's fun to write about.
     

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