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  1. InkDancer
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    InkDancer Senior Member

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    Unlikeable Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by InkDancer, Jul 10, 2008.

    How can you make an unlikeable character fun to read? Annoying, frustrating, and unlikeable people are certainly all around us, and it's no fun to spend time with them. I find, though, that I don't enjoy reading about those people either.

    I'm working on a story right now in which the protagonist has to face a whiny, complaining person on a daily basis. I want the story to be serious, so I can't really soften the relationship with comedy like I usually would. Any suggestions?
     
  2. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Some of the most appealing and engrossing characters, and yet in the end more likeable characters, have started out as complete scrooges.

    Scrooge is a good example of this!

    I would say just add a bit of humanity to them, which is the hardest part of writing.
    And a lot of Humanity is unlikeable.
     
  3. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    I'm writing about this pain in the neck kind of loser who is well, intolerable. It's hard reading the story because he get's on my nerves! But, to keep the story interesting, with the pinching of his attitude not blocking my sense of enjoyment, (that is, for the reader) I make sure that the storyline itself is compelling, and there is a good use of language and captivating writing styles which do not bore the reader. If you have a nasty character, you need to neutralize it with a good storyline to keep the reader addicted.
     
  4. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I think readers will enjoy reading a character, no matter how annoying, if the way you portray the character makes them think, "Oh my God, I know somebody EXACTLY like this!" I. e., if you make them believable enough, and, since this isn't comedy, not a caricature or exaggeration. Sure, the reader will probably hate the character, but you didn't say you wanted them to like them. :D Just to enjoy reading them. Oddly, I've found that lots of people seem to enjoy reading about things that they consider highly annoying and irritating, even if they won't admit it.

    Case in point--I used to keep an online personal journal. I'd sometimes journal about happy things or cheery things or the stuff I'm interested in. More often, though, my entries would be whiny and self-pitying and ranty and stuff. Well, guess which entries, by far, got the most hits?

    Yep. The whiny, ranty ones. And those were also the entries which got the most responses. Whereas with my cheery positive entries, people tended not to bother responding, whenever I posted my whiny rants I'd get all kinds of people snapping at me to "Shut up!" and "Get over it!" and "Do something about it instead of whining all the time!" These people never had word one to say about my positive entries, which, although rare, were still existent--it's like they couldn't even see them. They only showed up and spoke up when I was complaining. Meaning, they sure loved to keep coming back and reading me when I was annoying! And I've found myself doing the same thing--avidly reading journal entries that are ranty and full of complaints, getting bored by cheery happy ones.

    Back to the subject, lots of people love to read about annoying characters because it strikes a chord with them--"This protagonist is dealing with somebody JUST LIKE that person I can't stand..." Therefore the reader might even end up sympathizing with your MC more, because they have to deal with the same pain-in-the-neck character the reader knows from real life. (And most of us know plenty of annoying people.)

    You might say you wouldn't enjoy reading about annoying people, but there are plenty of people who would--not because they like or enjoy that character, but just because it smacks of reality for them. They've been there, they know what it's like.

    Just make sure the character is believable and not a total exaggeration. Even the whiniest, most complaining people have some redeeming qualities (they just might be hard to find).
     
  5. Kirby Tails
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    Kirby Tails Member

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    I rather enjoy reading about unlikeable characters...writing about them as well. Of course, my unlikeable characters are usually much more intelligent than my likeable ones, for some reason...
     
  6. x3 KATiE
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    x3 KATiE New Member

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    Maybe if you make the character's past a part of the story. Everyone has problems, and like many of the "villians," their past created their new attitude. Best of luck with your story! =]
     
  7. InkDancer
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    InkDancer Senior Member

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    Thanks everyone! That's a lot to work with, and it's very much appreciated. I'll see what I can cook up. :)
     
  8. Last1Left
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    Last1Left Active Member

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    I know I'm a little late, but making an annoying character more human doesn't change the fact that he's annoying. After all, there are annoying, real people in the world. If you want to make it more fun to read, why not include others' responses to the annoying character. As irritating as an annoying person is in life, isn't it always a little interesting to poke fun at him? Probably the same goes for reading about annoying characters.
     
  9. Marloy
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    Marloy Contributing Member

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    Most of the responses sound like pretty much like a lot that I would say. And yes, in actuality the annoying, etc. characters I find always come out very intriguing. What's wrong with being annoying (don't answer that one :p), of course we know people who are in life, but that can only add to the story being interesting, along with the character. I love to read about those nuisance little buggers that get in everyone's skin, if you do it right you can make them very engaging!

    And there's always a deep-seated reason for others' troubles and what makes them peeves, so giving him humanity will let the reader feel empathy in an easier fashion (if they have not grown a liking for that character yet). Truth be told, just because a character is 'unlikeable' doesn't make him less interesting, or unlikeable even, necessarily, so go for it.

    Anyway, there's my two cents! :D
     

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