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  1. Tobi
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    Tobi Member

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    Unlikable MC

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Tobi, Aug 14, 2008.

    The issue is simple enough, I’m concerned my main character will be despised by the reader and they won’t be able to read my work because of their disgust for the character.

    I'll give a brief summary of the first few chapters, the actions of the MC, which are necessary to introduce his character and a main plot device. His first moments in the story are him conning some men into buying some necklaces, he rips them off. He is then abused by some soldiers who he meets later breaking ones arm and giving another two a concussion, later he robs a man of a massive amount of gold and kills a man who helped him. He goes home to kill someone who is raiding his possessions, soon after when war breaks out he takes the opportunity to steal from a church, he tortures and kills a priest steals a massive ruby from the church then burns it down. Pretty lousy hey? I'm fine with the character not being liked but the issue is wouldn't this make the reader hate him? This is all critical to the plot and I want to start it with some action, I’m just concerned it'll make the reader turn away in disgust, the main reason for that is the MC has no remorse for his actions and furthermore even feels they are justified. Does this seem interesting or does it just make you never want to read more?
     
  2. CrimsonWolf
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    As long as you can convey that reason properly during the story, I see no problem. If the character has a good reason for doing all those things, I should feel sympathy or at least an understanding of him. Just make sure it doesn't seem like senseless actions.

    But yes, I must say I am a little interested into why he would do all those things.
     
  3. DarkMaiden273
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    DarkMaiden273 Member

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    I agree with CrimsonWolf. And I too am intrigued though I think maybe you should give some back round story or something to make people understand and possibly a little less action or crimes in the beginning unless they are absolutly crucial to the plot and storyline.
     
  4. Tobi
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    Tobi Member

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    Well the con is a bit senseless but it's the introduction of the character, the soldiers are there to reveal he has serious issues with them, a deep-seated grudge against them. The man who helps him is killed because he's a soldier and is blocking the exit which he needs to use because of other soldier pursuing him. He justifies stealing the ruby because he feels the church is evil and it'll make him rich. He tortures the priest to find the gem, and once he has it he kills the priest so nobody will know he was there, then burns the church down to make sure it takes time before people realise the ruby has been stolen. Stealing the gem is the really the only absolute relevent plot device in all this, i have given the reasons why he feels his actions are justified, though they seem rather cruel and extremely selfish. They don't allow the reader it empathise with him at all, i do because i know why he is like that, but this is all the reader gets for now.

    The reason why my character does the things he does vary but it all boils down to one event, he was disgraced and persecuted by all, imagine being remebered by the worst moment of your life for the rest of your life, this pain changed him. Most people would die if they went through what he did, but he become a ruthless sociopath to survive. After living as a homeless beggar constantly berated and persecuted he is the person at the beginning of the story. His backstory is slowly introduced throughout the book, but to begin with the reader knows nothing, i don't want to bog the beginning down with backstory but will if it seems necessary.
     
  5. CrimsonWolf
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    CrimsonWolf Member

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    That put me off a little, I must say. The "it'll make him rich" part just completely alienates the character to me. However...

    ... after reading that, I feel like I can understand his actions a little more. But as you've said, to fully appreciate the character we'd need the whole back story which I doubt you have time to type up and I have time to read.

    I am very interested as to what this event was that left him so scarred. I'd say with a bit of work, and making sure it's clear to your readers why he does the things he does, he'll be a great main character.
     
  6. DarkMaiden273
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    DarkMaiden273 Member

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    Okay. Now I want to read this. But I agree with what you said about not wanting to bog down the beginning. I think it will be a good book. Though you might need to add a little something to hook your reading into continuing.

    You might want to try reading The Black Company by Glen Cook. His main characters are mercenaries and it is also hard to like them, but in a way you also find yourself liking them and wanting to read more.
     
  7. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    I'd probably forget about trying to make the MC likeable, and just concentrate on making him unique and interesting. People with put up with dislikeable actions or traits from a character so long as they find him fascinating.
     
  8. DarkMaiden273
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    DarkMaiden273 Member

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    Agreed. A unique character or story line is usually what hooks me. As long as later his actions and reasons are explained I think it will be a great story.
     
  9. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    Have you ever seen the show House? House is a jerk to everyone, and yet he's the main character, best character, and the reason while the show is so popular.
     
  10. Rawiya
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    Rawiya Member

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    True, but in my opinion, House is incredibly likable. He's intelligent, he's witty, he's cute (for an older guy), and he has a soft side.

    But if you have a truly heinous MC, what's to stop the reader for rooting for the antagonist?
     
  11. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Beneath everything he does, too, he's also a very caring guy when it really counts. If he knows the person needs to hear some kind words or reassurance, and there is nobody but him, he will say the best thing he can.
     
  12. TwinPanther13
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    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

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    Look good or bad as long as he is interesting it is ok.

    I am tired of Mentioning him but Salvatore did what you said and is finding success. Jarlaxle and Artemis Entreri are two villains that fought against Drizzzt Do'urden in his other novels. Both men have commited heinous crimes and both did it just because they could.

    Yet now Jarlaxle and Artemis are finding themselves in there own novels together bringing death and destruction to more people and killing the heroes that oppose them.

    I love great villians.

    Your character sounds very interesting Tobi. Go with it.
     
  13. Leo
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    Leo Senior Member

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    Perhaps you could leave the actions un-explained to begin with, and use the reader's curiostiy as to why he does them as the hook, to be straightened out later on. No need to tell everything all at once ;).
     
  14. Ungood
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    Never happen.

    They only way this happens is if YOU the writer fail to weave a good story.
     
  15. Tobi
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    Tobi Member

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    I have to agree on House, he's incredibly likable and underneath it all he's actually a nice guy.

    I can't see the reader rooting for the antagonists, they're worse than the MC.

    That's what i've always intended to do.

    That gives me a lot of confidence as i know it's a good story, and I joined here to improve my storytelling.

    Thanks for all the comment's didn't get to reply to them all but they all helped a lot.
     
  16. illuminati
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    House is a likeable character because his intentions are noble despite the fact that he's a prat. Readers can look past the heinous crimes of a character if there is a certain degree of empathy towards the character. Establish this by either giving him a noble cause or a hint of humanity.

    For example, he steals from the Church, but outside he sees a boy with torn clothes sleeping on the sidewalk. Feeling sad for the boy and his conditions, he takes a valuable item (that he stole, of course) and slips it into the sleeping boy’s shirt pocket before moving on.

    That simple gesture of humanity should give your character favour in the reader’s eyes.
     
  17. Tobi
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    Tobi Member

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    That's a really good idea, because it's a kid he still has innocence and the MC's general hate of humanity doesn't need to apply so he can be a little generous. The MC doesn't have a noble cause so this a more than suitable glimpse of humanity.
     
  18. DarkMaiden273
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    Yeah, House means well or he wouldnt be a doctor so he wants to help people underneath it all, way underneath it all. But he is or at least at one time was a good guy. And Jarlaxle is the coolest person ever. He struggled through life in a hostile land and made a livin and is now at the top, "...", of the chain.
     
  19. Scarecrow28
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    Maybe you could write about his guilt for committing certain actions after the fact in order to generate some sympathy and make sure to clearly state the events that drove him towards insanity.
     
  20. Popsicle.culture
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    Have you ever read the book 'Matchstick Men' by Eric Garcia? In the opening scene we see the main character and another supporting character con money from a young couple. Then, in the next few scenes, con an old woman (who's husband had just died) from most of her savings. In fact, the entire book is riddled with the main character's exploits of people who you really feel bad for. It's all over the place, and the main character does it 'just to get rich.'

    However, it's a bestselling novel. It was made into a film. And you grow to love the main character, and see some of his justifications.

    As long as there's a reason behind it all, and the character is interesting, it should work.
     
  21. dazbizkit
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    Leave little hints to his past so the reader knows there is a reason behind everything. Even if they do not yet know the reason they will stick by the MC to find out. Most readers will probably already assume there is reasoning behind everything he does.

    But play it safe and add little hints. If it's written in first person you will find it alot easier by adding lines here and there indicating theres method in his madness.
     
  22. Tobi
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    He's not insane just has a dark and twisted ideology, he doesn't have any guilt for his crimes he only cares about himself nobody else matters. So I can't generate sympathy that way but the events that drove him to where he is are clear enough, and a lot of detail has been put into them it's just spread throughout the book after the initial plot devices are put into action.

    I write some first person and third person, I intended this book to be third person because it switches point of view on occasions, but lately it just seems that first person would work better for the MC's point of view. I'll write the first chapter in both points of view and decide which i like more.
     
  23. stoned4assassin20
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    stoned4assassin20 Member

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    To me, the problem is not whether or not the character is "likable." The question is: is your character evocative? Does the character elicit strong emotions in the reader? Readers do not seek to necessarily "like" the characters; they seek to become immersed and embowered in a world. If a disgusting character evokes hate from the reader, you've done your job. You've changed how the reader feels with your characters. Who cares if they like your character? If the reader cares about what's happening, he or she will continue. I don't stop reading books because I hate the characters, I stop reading books because I just don't give a damn.
     

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