Monday, August 20, 2012

Your Main Character Doesn't Want To Be Liked... And That's Okay

Some of you may know that I'm a huge fan of realism. Not only is contemporary YA my favorite genre to read (and the trickiest for me to write), I also fall head over heels for fake people who are multidimensional. My absolute faves are the so-called unlikeable main characters. The more my beliefs clash with theirs, the more intrigued I am by them. 

Exhibit A: Emily Thorne from ABC's Revenge

I'm the kind of gal who let's fate deal with people. I don't make it a point to bring down anyone (unless they badmouth Jensen Ackles. Because that is a SERIOUS OFFENSE, folks!!). Emily Thorne, whose actual name is Amanda Clarke and is seeking to avenge her father's death and wears awesome clothes and I think is Batman's illegitimate daughter, disagrees with me. She's like, "Pffft! Amparo, you are LAME. Someone does something bad to you? GET EVEN. *cackles*". 

I am both appalled and fascinated by this woman.

I love her even when I dislike the crap out of her.

I want to slap her across the face and hug her at the same time.

And that's what makes Revenge such an awesomesauce show to me. Emily/Amanda feels the same things I feel when someone does me wrong (anger, resentment, a need to wear awesome clothes), but we choose to react differently. We choose to be who we are to the fullest (I am slightly fierce while she is OH SO FIERCE). At the end of the day, Emily/Amanda isn't asking me to like her. She wants me to understand her, which I totally do. 

So pretty please, writing buddies, don't write the characters you wish you were. Write real people in a world that doesn't exist. Even if that means writing about real people you disagree with. 

 *hides from Emily/Amanda*

Now tell me: are you writing--or have you ever written--an unlikeable main character? If so, what were the most difficult things about him/her? AND ARE YOU WATCHING REVENGE BECAUSE OMG???


Jeanmarie Anaya said...

I have mixed feelings about this. In an old manuscript of mine, I wrote a MC who I didn't think was entirely unlikable but definitely had irritating qualities. She was spunky and obnoxious and the stereotypical rockstar bad girl. Agents hated her. CPs loved her but conceded that at some points she was hard to relate to. I guess that's where the tricky part comes in for me: The relatability. A character can be horrifyingly unlikable but if readers can relate to their struggle, then they'll go along for the ride. Sort of like how you feel the character needs to be "understood." It's such a tough line to toe when writing.

Suzanne said...

I love Revenge and think Amanda/Emily is one heck of a protagonist. I love how she's also her biggest enemy at times. While that show smacks a bit of melodrama I still love all the twists and turns and complications.

I think understanding a character is sometime more important than liking them. If I can understand why they choose to do what they do, I can forgive them almost anything.

Triona said...

Great post, and very timely for me! The MC in my current book starts out very unlikeable, and I've gotten about a 50/50 split of CPs & agents who hate this or are intrigued by his douche-ness and want to read on.

Kittie Howard said...

Great post at just the right time for me. Some like my MC, some don't. But if I tried to please everybody, my MC's spirit would disappear.

Mary Holm said...

I love Revenge! It's just so evil. And I love Emily/Amanda. We don't always agree with her choices, but we understand why she acts the way she does. We feel for her when she loses, we ache for her when she's hurt and worry about her when her plans go desperately wrong. She lives by her own rules and we're fascinated to see what will happen when the consequences of her actions catch up to her. What will happen to all the awesome clothes?

Katrina L. Lantz said...

I haven't watched this show yet! Thanks for the rec! My unlikable characters are usually unlikable due to nerdiness. :)I did like one of my villainous non-villains from my MG book even though he would seriously irritate me in real life. But he's more of a side character. So far my protagonists have been pretty harmless. Hmm... maybe that should change.