It’s been said a lot that in order for a story to be relatable and enjoyable, the reader should connect with the main character, and the main character should, generally, have a likeable quality. I agree with that. They should, at least, have one redeeming quality. But there have been a number of stories where the main character, or one of the main supporting characters, was, well, pretty much an a-hole (Gregory House, anyone? How about Sawyer from Lost? Damon Salvatore?). Other times, the character simply bugs you to no end. For me, these include Bella from Twilight, Katniss from The Hunger Games, and Tris from Divergent. Forgive me for stepping on a few tails there, but yes, I said it. I really, severely dislike those female characters.
Funny thing is, Collins acknowledged Katniss’ negative traits in her book, but she also had her characters purposely try and think of her good qualities. Granted, she had them. What makes these characters not likeable, but readable, is that they have both sides of the spectrum: really bad qualities, and really good ones (i.e. strengths and weaknesses). These are characters that can make mistakes, they can and often do make poor decisions, and they more often than not will have you tearing your hair out or rolling your eyes at their, erm, sheer stupidity? Yeah, that’s a light word.
For me, these characters don’t affect how much I like something. Would I have liked it more if they didn’t annoy me as much as they did, or would I have been bored out of my mind? It’s impossible to say. Because the story is about them and their imperfection.
Although likeable characters are great and offer a different type of story—the meek hero, the brave orphan, and the nerdy genius who constantly saves everyone’s butt, to name a few—they don’t have to be the only kind of story in existence. Underdogs are great, but I also sometimes love the plain old dogs.
(For a fun read with—at first—a highly snobbish and “unlikable” character, visit Lorna Suzuki’s The Dream Merchant Saga.)
The important thing is that the character doesn’t bore you or have absolutely no redeeming qualities. If there’s nothing to hone and no redemption in sight, you might have a harder time winning over your audience. Unless you’re up for the challenge.
Have you disliked any main characters in stories you enjoyed?
-The Story Addict
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