Last Week’s Discussion:
Likable Main Characters
Why do all characters have to be likable? Why do all characters have to be good or self-righteous or sacrifice themselves for the fate of the planet? Personally, I find that highly unrealistic. Not everyone is a saint. Not everyone is going to want to die for a world they’ll never see or people they’ll never meet. That motivation isn’t inherent. So, I wonder… can there be unlikable characters in fiction? Let’s see what the discussioners had to say, shall we?
B. L. said:
“Maybe this is a YA genre thing? There are lots of “morally gray” and unlikeable protagonists in traditional Literature (capital L), and genres like horror and thriller/mystery. I usually don’t care if a protagonist or anti-hero is likeable or not, as long as they are interesting. “
“Some of my favourite characters are the ones that are unlikable because they just feel more real. I think I agree with B.L. Daniels when he says that this might be a YA thing! I am having a hard time coming up with an unlikable character in a YA book…”
“We need to be able to relate to the main character. Most people, no matter how mean, nasty and self-centered they are, think of themselves as at least sort of nice people. We also need to cheer when the MC has good things happen and feel bad when bad things happen.
That being said, no, the main character does not have to be likable. The main character does have to be interesting, or why would you bother reading the book, but you can hate the MC. Or laugh at the MC. Or….”
“i don’t think, that a main characters needs to be likeable or perfect. i think the most important thing is, that the main character is relatable. i don’t care if a character is perfect, does only good things, is selfish or rude. i need to understand why a main character is the way he or she is and i need to believe it and the reasons behind it. if it doesn’t make sense and i can’t relate to that at all, then the main character doesn’t work for me.”
“I guess in theory most people don’t want to spend their time with people they don’t like so having a hero that is at least somewhat likable or relatable appeals to a much wider audience, but honestly I totally hear what you’re saying and I’d be totally down with reading a book where the prophecy or whatever totally chose the biggest prick who couldn’t care less about saving the world.”
“Likability and relatability are important, but I think relatability is more important. The less perfect and more like a person that exists outside a book, the better the character. “
“Not everyone has a moral compass the size of the continental US! Of course people will question their actions sometimes and fight with rights and wrongs, but unlikeable people are normal! I personally love a character that’s rude, crass, vulgar and brutally honest because that’s me in real life. I do think that if a main character is unlikeable I like to know their thought process though. Understanding why a person does what they do or think what they think makes that character easier to understand and relate to”
“It can be done, but aside from liking them, you can make them so bad people will stay with you to see them fail. There is a commercial decision to make eventually too, and authors are wise to consider it.”
“that doesn’t mean s/he has to be all rainbows and roses and save the world because s/he wants to! I prefer s/he to be more relatable than likeable and have strengths / weaknesses, yet there needs to be at least some degree of likeability in order for me to follow him/her. Kind of like meeting a stranger and being asked to be a friend; we’d only be friends only if there’s something about him/her that I like or feel hopeful about, and I doubt I can stick with a character (or a person) that grates me on a regular basis.”
“I don’t think the main character in a book has to be likable but they do have to be relatable, interesting or just so horrible and bad you can’t wait to see what they do next.
I think a main character has to generate some kind of emotion from you, even if it’s an intense dislike. It’s the boring, moany characters who are just a bit meh that bother me more.”
“But honestly the books I liked when I disliked the main characters are few, very few. I’m a “I want to like” my character kind of girl or rather “I want to understand” my main character. Even someone kind etc. that I can’t understand won’t work for me. Like or not the main ingredient to appreciate a book is feeling a connection with the character.”
“It’s all about making them interesting. Whether that be the character posing an ethical question that makes you think, or relatable feelings of questioning morals, or that you just want to see that son of a bitch fail, and so on. I don’t really care about somebody ignoring a child’s cry for help. Not because I judge them for acting that way, but, well frankly it’s just boring. Put in some stakes. Make me think a little bit.”
“I think it is difficult to enjoy a story while disliking the main character, but there are many ways to make a main character likeable. Maybe the story portrays the selfish main character as honest, or determined in their own goals and dreams, or unwilling to simply submit to the will and pressures of others, all of which could be admirable characteristics.”
Well, it would seem that not everyone agrees on liking main characters. Many people believe it to be possible, but very few can actually come up with current examples, and the others say they actually do want to like the main character. A lot of this, it would seem, has become a construct of society. Our societal belief in what a person should be has greatly influenced what type of character we want to see in a book because that’s how they’re supposed to be in real life. It’s a curious concept, to say the least.
Check out this week’s discussion on Thursday at 10am EST:
Fiction Rating System