Monday, December 5, 2011

Withdrawal - Do you like me or not?

Withdrawal - this is an interesting word. And kinda what I'm going through now. After the adventure and mind wrecking experience that November was, now I find myself wanting more of that. And not more of writing, but more of my project. Which is over. And there's nothing I can do about it. I'm having trouble not reading it over and over again to remember the finer points.

But today's post is about something else. I've actually broken my habit and haven't written my characters to be instantly likable. I've let them have their way and something very surprising came out: A girl who struggles and grows (I think/hope), a guy who I'm currently madly in love with for some reason, and a guy who's a complete asshole, but is right about it. Shortly, I've put soul into this.

Let me explain what I mean. Putting soul, to me, means really getting involved in the story - believing that you hold a message you want to share with the world, a lesson you want to teach. With Hunters, I didn't have this problem. That book was for sheer enjoyment. It was never meant to be literary brilliance.
Well, this one either, but I tried to get something across - make people think about it. Just like my YA series tries to teach the values of friendship, family, trust and choices, this one deals with understanding yourself, choices (again - a favorite theme for me), and how you can be happy or miserable in the same circumstances. A sort of  'who you are' vs. 'who society wants you to be.'

Okay, I'm deviating again.

Here's what I actually wanted to say.

Instantly likable characters vs realistic characters.

Here, I'm talking about my MCs, Grace and Nate.

Grace's behavior can be interpreted as both rebellious+stubborn and selfless and brave. As some of my beloved critters pointed out, I could make changes to make her more likable. The thing is, I discovered I don't want to. I know who she is, who she will become, and I want to see how the readers' perception of her would change

Same with Nate - his first line makes him sound like a horribly snob and an unlikable person. Yet, by the end of the section, some people warmed up to him, some didn't. Again, suggestions that I could make him more likable. I could, but he's not. He's anal to the extreme. Can't heroes be anal? The fact that he snaps at the POV character and is bossy makes him sound horrible. But as far as he's concerned, Grace is acting like an idiot, and he's being nice enough by not pointing that out.

My conclusion is that it depends on the POV of the character. If you write the story from the POV of the antagonist, he will be your hero (unless he's really, really evil). And the good guys don't have to be perfect.

Just like the bad guys can be awesome. And people reading my story know what I mean here (hint, hint, Blackwing - the terribly likable demon).

So...what's your position on likable versus realistic? Would you rather engage the reader with a character you know they'll instantly like and follow, or chance to give them a screwed up one which is more realistic?


  1. I prefer characters that fascinate people and I think they don't have to be likable to fascinate. For example, my serial killer is fascinating, lots of people have commented favorably, not because they like him (the character) but because they are interested in what motivates this character.

  2. I think you probably already know my views on this, Steph. After all, one of my MCs was Darin, and I wouldn't exactly have called him "likeable" in that first chapter of his ;).

    In any character, I think a reader needs something to relate to, to empathise with, but this doesn't mean the character has to be instantly likeable. I love watching characters grow. For me, it adds realism.

  3. I like both types of characters as long as they're written right. How's that for an answer?! :)

  4. I think Diane said much of what I was about to. Characters don't have to be likeable, but I think they do absolutely have to capture the reader's imagination in some way. That "some way" can be extremely unlikeable, but as long as it keeps the reader interested, wanting to see more, it does the trick.

  5. Hey everyone! Thanks for the comments

    I agree. I don't need characters to be likable at first. The quirkier the better for me. But some people expect them to click right away.

    In this case, I'm having things my way :) Let them be unlikable until people find some points to connect. I actually want them to get the feeling that they want to like them, but something small is wrong and won't let them :D


Show me the love :)