1. kianaaacakes
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    kianaaacakes New Member

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    How to make a controversial character likeable?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by kianaaacakes, Jul 21, 2011.

    I'm usually pretty good at character development... but in my current story, I have this girl, and she's the main character's love interest. However, she's rather... difficult. She's very reckless and almost childish, and is so impulsive that she has problems with drug addiction and just basically gets in trouble where ever she goes. And these two characters love each other, but in very different ways - he loved her when they were kids secretly for years, but is now turned off by her current craziness. She has more suddenly fallen in love with him and is very pushy in trying to start a relationship with him. And he's a smart guy, so even though he likes her back he is unsure of what to do because of her troublesome personality.

    Another girl is going to come into the picture, who the main character also begins to like, and she's kind and quirky and... very likeable. So when the main character ends up with the first girl instead... I feel like right now most readers would not like that.

    The relationship between the two characters is very love-hate and the girl's problems are not romanticized at all like most stories with "troublesome" characters. She is meant to be a bit extreme, though still within realism. Does anyone have any tips for making such characters, even with their flaws, likeable to readers?

    Thanks in advance :love:
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Who says she has to be likable?
     
  3. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    The OP does, I think. But I agree with Steerpike's sentiment.

    I also have to say that some people will always be disliked, and characters will always be the same. Then again, if your main character basically picked which one he wanted with Eenie Meenie Minie Moe, then you're headed for trouble.

    If it makes sense why he went with her, then she'll be likeable enough, I'm sure. It's just unfortunate for the other girl, who'll always have her fan-boys and -girls.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah. And if she wants her to be likable, that's cool. But I didn't know if she wanted that, or just assumed the character had to be likable.

    You can always throw in a sympathetic act or two (maybe she's kind to vermin or something), or give a bit of back story as to why she's that way to make readers feel empathy or at least sympathy.
     
  5. Aeschylus
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    Aeschylus Contributing Member

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    Exactly as Steerpike says: why does she have to be likable? Her being unlikable makes for a much more interesting story--it's boring when romance plots develop between likable, nice, perfect people. It's far more interesting when MC falls for someone who's far from perfect, and it makes the MC more interesting too--characterization of both characters becomes more intriguing and the relationships become much more unpredictable and have more profound impacts on the plot. Readers will like it a lot that he ends up with her instead of the good girl because it makes everything more dynamic and intriguing.

    I've got a main character who's impulsive and unstable and not exactly perfectly likable herself, and her relationship with the great guy who loves her ends quickly--in the long run she ends up in an unhealthy, abusive relationship. Why? Not because it makes them likable or romantic or anything, but because it makes the story and the characters much more interesting: it says so much about my MC and makes her a fascinating character; it adds a ton to the plot; keeps the reader interested because it's unpredictable and goes from sketchy to downright scary. Not only that, but the "perfect" match that never works out gets to play a dynamic role in the story instead of that of the sweet, predictable bf. That's how fictional romance works, isn't it? Everyone roots for the perfect romance that seems impossible, but no one roots for it to continue once it happens.
     
  6. pyrosama
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    pyrosama Member

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    I think the best way (in my opinion) to make a nasty character "likable" is to create an antagonist for that character. Maybe she has a stepfather that beats her. Maybe there are obstacles in her life preventing her from being a happy person. What are those things? When you give a character obstacles, the reader will relate assuredly. That doesn't mean they will fully forgive her for her atrocious personality, but they will understand her more.
     
  7. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    Give her a large rack?

    But really as others have said she doesn't have to be likeable. People go out with jerks all the time. Perhaps he simply feels a connection with her because they've known each other so long. That can spark feelings. And if you want her likeable why not change her personality?
     
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  8. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    A Character that does anything to help his friends and the enemy at the same time. Or they do things to get attention and everybody gets mad and they just sit back and relax.
     
  9. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think your biggest challenge will be to come up with a reason why the MC ends up with the first girl that makes sense to the reader. Does the MC have a missionary complex? Does he end up with her because he wants to save her from herself? That's very common in relationships where one is an addict of some kind. It also quite often turns out badly.
     
  10. Chivalrous Tart
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    Chivalrous Tart Member

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    This. If the main character is falling in love with an idiot, terribly abusive girl with no redeeming qualities, that reflects the main character is an imbecile. Now, I'm not saying people don't fall in love with repugnant beasts, but they fall in love for a reason.

    The best way to make an unlikeable character, like a drug addicted abusive girlfriend, likeable is to give them likeable characteristics. I am invoking Godwin's law right now, but even the greatest villains in history have some good qualities. Hitler was a talented artist. This one positive doesn't even come close to matching his negatives, but it makes him more of a full person.

    When was the last time you have heard of a completely evil person? No one wakes up in the morning and is like "Let's rape babies!" People always conceive themselves as the heroes of their own personal narrative, and your characters should reflect this.

    I would give your drug addicted girlfriend character some positives, and she'll become much more realistic and rounded. You should make your lady talented at something. Your main character needs to fall in love with her for some tangible reason.
     
  11. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    Okay, this is not advice, but can I read your story when its done? XD I've never said this before on here, but after reading this thread, I think your story sounds super awesome. I love that he winds up with the dysfunctional girl.

    I think a good way to make her more likable is to make the other girl SO PERFECT that its annoying. I love Twilight, but me and a lot of other girls who read the books wanted to strangle Bella because she was just TOO perfect if you get what I mean.
     
  12. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    Bella was never likeable. ever. She is horribly flawed, and very obsequious towards Edward, she obsesses over him in 3/4 of the entire series of 4 books cause the plot is too weak. But please, don't take this in offense. That's my opinion. When it comes to you, it doesn't matter. ;) I just don't like Twilight. That's all.
     
  13. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    Don't worry, I'm not offended. No one but me that I know likes Twilight. I don't bother to talk about it to anyone most of the time and I'm used to people insulting it. I wouldn't necessarily defend it as great fiction, in fact complaining that Bella has no faults is actually me saying the opposite of that. (The books are just one of those weaknesses I have that I'm not necessarily proud of.)

    That being said . . . . you're missing my point. My point was that you can make a character so perfect that she makes people want to barf.

    *SPOILERS FOLLOW*

    And while Bella may not be perfect to you, women who were raised with extremely conservative Mormon or Christians backgrounds, like I and the author were, are OFTEN (not always so someone else doesn't miss my point) taught that a good girl finds a husband and puts him on a pedastool and does everything he says like a good obedient wife . . . . . . like Bella does with Edward bossing her around and her obsessing over him. She's kind, compassionate, humble, and not obsessed with her looks . . . . like Bella is. And in the books, everyone falls in love with Bella. All the characters are always saying there is something special about her, even vampires who don't normally blink twice at humans. Everyone always wants to protect her and she's always doing the self-sacrificial thing. It just breaks her heart when she's hurting both Jacob and Edward trying to choose between them and instead of either of them being upset, they are too obsessed with Bella's perfections and how the fact that she's conflicted is entirely their faults because she can do no wrong. And her only fault according to the books is that she's clumsy, which she's not really THAT clumsy and even if she was, the books use it as a humor device that is meant to endear us even more to her, so its not a real fault. She's just so different and special because vampires can't use their gifts on her because she's beyond them even though she's only human and when she turns into a vampire she doesn't have the bloodlust that everyone else does uncontrollably because she's too good of person to have it. And everyone's AMAZED at her self-control. Not to mention that when she joins the school originally, all the girls there are jealous of her and wish they could be exactly like her. All the boys start asking her out and she's just so above their league that she ignores all of them and they all look stupid as they try to ask her out while she's obviously obsessed with Edward who's avoiding her because she's so SPECIAL YET AGAIN that her blood smells more delicious than anyone else's he's ever smelled. But because she's such a wonderful person, he's able to resist that temptation because her heart is just as perfect as the smell of her blood and to lose her would be a huge loss for the world. Her mother is stupid and doesn't know how to take care of herself. Why? Because she had Bella as a daughter who obviously was born with so much wisdom and common sense that she never had a childhood and was taking care of her mother from the moment she was born. When she gets pregnant and the child is murdering her, her husband offers to let her sleep with another man if it means she'll abort the baby. Because Bella can't sacrifice herself. No, no, no, because she's too perfect, but of course she wants to, because again, she's too perfect.

    You may disagree about her having faults, but when Stephanie Meyer wrote her, she was writing a Mary Sue. And she's just so perfect, you want to SMACK HER. Everything about her is special in the stories ALL THE TIME. You get what I'm saying? She never goes into a room and just blends in. She's supposed to shine above all others.
     
  14. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    Oh crap. I repeated a part of your point XD. That's what i feel about Bella. In other ways she's perfect, but then at the same time she's horribly flawed. But i see your point. When i read Twilight i wanted to slap her silly too. She also complains WAYY too much.
     
  15. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    You're both wrong! She's not perfect! She's not even a HUMEN BING!!1! Bella is hardly even a character. She is merely a vessel for pre-pubescent girls to fill in order to easily see themselves in Edward's arms. It's a ploy to sell books! And, let me tell you, it really worked. Most people associate Twilight with Edward rather than the MC because of his popularity with girls. I remember a few years ago when I first heard of Twilight and a girl had gushed to me (in graphic detail) how "sexy" Edward was. Twilight is mostly popular because, well, "sex sells".

    But enough about two-dimensional characters hiding behind a veil of perfection; I need to get back on topic.

    I don't think you're looking for the word "likeable". Rather, I think you want your character to be relatable, at the least. I know many characters who would generally be very unlikeable, but have that saving trait of "relatability". You can still make a character who is a childish drug-addict and get away with it by giving her a terrible past (dead parents, child abuse, whatever) and, thus, giving her a reason to act badly. It always works with the sensationalist audience. You can be "unlikeable" and yet have people "relate" with you because, I don't know, you were dropped on your head as a baby or something. Not the best example (it's one in the morning and my exhaustion stops me from making sense), but I hope you get what I'm saying.
     
  16. whitefairy24601
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    whitefairy24601 Member

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    Off of the Twilight discussion... because I honestly don't have anything worthwhile to add, have you seen the movie The Devil Wears Prada. Because- spoiler- I found the character of Miranda likable. Why? Because as 'awful', or 'dysfunctional' as the character was she had things that happened in her life that made you kind of have to like her.
    Sometimes if something happened in someone's life such as divorce, or death, or something it makes you wonder about the character some. I guess it sort of gives them a reason to be that way. I think any character that has depth and seems... human can be likable because that's who they are. Now, I'm not bashing Twilight- heh heh, I am mentioning it- but the character Bella wasn't real enough for me to like.
    Anyways, if this isn't helpful, or if someone said that I apologize. This is just what popped into my head when I saw this so... yeah. Good luck!!!
     
  17. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    It depends a lot on your story?
    Is your main character a tough guy? He might not like the sweet, perfect second girl.
    Is he reckless? He might want to join up with the first girl.
    If all else fails, just slide them together and give the second girl the finger. Also, make the second girl attempt to break the couple apart so she can be with the MC. It always, always pisses me off and I'll probably be throwing mental darts at her face.
     
  18. LostBreakingDevelopment
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    LostBreakingDevelopment New Member

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    Well I'm guessing your story is a drama/romance? Anyways in my experience the only situation where I find a bad egg a "likeable" character is when they have some humor to them. Otherwise I think it would be hard for you to make this character likeable. I've seen plenty of characters that cause trouble that aren't really likeable but definitely relatable. I would show the reader things from her past when the main guy liked her that everyone can relate to. Also it is just as important to explain why she turned into what she is and why she is suddenly falling for the protagonist. A relatable character can have just an equally strong connection with the reader as a likeable character, if not more.

    Good Luck!
     

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