NetGalley

Author Topic: Hate the main character, hate the book?  (Read 2082 times)  

Offline SalomeGolding

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 43
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Hate the main character, hate the book?
« on: June 11, 2018, 12:07:24 PM »
I recently got a review where the reader said she "didn't like the heroine at all!" because she (the heroine) was an immature user. (I'm paraphrasing).

She made no comment about whether or not she thought the novel was engaging and well written. She gave it a star rating lower than the couple of others received so far.

On balance, having reflected, I find it kind of amusing and am glad that the characters evoked such strong feelings in her. But now I am considering whether it would be better to create more likable heroines in the future.

To the more experienced writers - does this often happen? Do readers tend to judge your novels on whether or not they like the hero / heroine? If so, do you think that's unfair? Or do you just accept it and write more likable heroes/heroines?

As a reader, do you enjoy a novel less and/or give it lower ratings when you don't like the main character?

Is it possible to *love* a book although you think that the main character sucks as a person?
« Last Edit: June 11, 2018, 07:08:34 PM by SalomeGolding »

Author of Cross-Cultural Romances featuring black women
Salome Golding | Amazon | Twitter

Offline MyraScott

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1545
  • Gender: Female
  • Ideas are worth nothing until implemented
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2018, 12:10:32 PM »
I can't devote my time to reading a book with a main character I don't like.  They don't have to be any certain way, but if they are completely unlikable I won't keep going.

Online SevenDays

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2938
  • Gender: Female
  • PNW
  • Imagine something cool and witty here.
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2018, 12:14:42 PM »
Reading your post, at first I thought yup, if I hate the character I won't view the book favorably. Then I remembered Mac in Karen Marie Moning's Fever series. I haaaaaaaated Mac. She's basically an oxygen thief, at least in the first book. But did I hate the book? Nope. Adored it. Still one of my all-time favorite series ... up until the wretched, foul, worst-character-in-a-book-ever-omg Dani in Iced. I hated Dani so much I stopped reading after that.

So ... sometimes?

Alex A. King | Website

Offline Mikaela, Editor

  • Status: Madeleine L'Engle
  • **
  • Posts: 85
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • A Step Up Editing
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2018, 12:22:31 PM »
It's okay to have characters readers don't like. Just like in real life, some people suck. The important thing for a main character, however, is that your readers can somehow connect with and relate to them, whether that means they know the character's backstory and understand their reasoning or recognize the character's emotions and/or flaws within themselves. They don't have to agree with the character's choices, but they should be able to empathize with them.
A Step Up Editing
www.a-step-up-editing.com
mikaela@a-step-up-editing.com

Offline SalomeGolding

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 43
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2018, 12:24:06 PM »
I can't devote my time to reading a book with a main character I don't like.  They don't have to be any certain way, but if they are completely unlikable I won't keep going.

I have a feeling most people are going to say this.

Author of Cross-Cultural Romances featuring black women
Salome Golding | Amazon | Twitter

Offline kw3000

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 703
  • Rocky Mountains
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2018, 12:25:14 PM »
I wouldn't say I particularly care for Ignatius J. Reilly, but I love 'A Confederacy of Dunces'. 8)

Ken Ward

Offline Simon Haynes

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1624
  • Gender: Male
  • Perth, Australia
  • Born in the UK, raised in Spain, now Australian
    • View Profile
    • Home page
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2018, 12:26:19 PM »
I had a few reviews complaining my main character was a jerk, so I renamed the book after the other major character. Since he's much more likeable ... problem solved!

But to be serious, if I'm going to spend that much time inside the head of a character, they need to have some kind of redeeming qualities. If not likeable, then at least not irritating, whiney, easy push-overs, that kind of thing.


Also yWriter novel writing software & SalesScanner, a free KDP/Google/Smashwords/Createspace sales analyser for PC.

Online ellenoc

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3841
  • Gender: Female
  • Colorado
  • Mystery and romance
    • View Profile
    • Ellen O'Connell
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2018, 12:28:48 PM »
I'm another one - if the MC is IMO a jerk I don't want to spend time in their company. At a guess more readers are like me in Romance than any other genre.

Offline SalomeGolding

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 43
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2018, 12:31:37 PM »
Reading your post, at first I thought yup, if I hate the character I won't view the book favorably. Then I remembered Mac in Karen Marie Moning's Fever series. I haaaaaaaated Mac. She's basically an oxygen thief, at least in the first book. But did I hate the book? Nope. Adored it. Still one of my all-time favorite series ... up until the wretched, foul, worst-character-in-a-book-ever-omg Dani in Iced. I hated Dani so much I stopped reading after that.

So ... sometimes?

Hmm. Interesting. So what determines the "sometimes"? Is it whether, like Mikaela says, you can relate to the character and understand their motivations?

I've got to look that series up.

Author of Cross-Cultural Romances featuring black women
Salome Golding | Amazon | Twitter

Online Lynn Is A Pseudonym

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 381
  • Human.
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2018, 12:32:12 PM »
There are plenty of characters that I've hated but still appreciated. I didn't hate those books.

There are also plenty of characters that I've hated that have caused me to hate the books they're part of.

Just the way it goes.

I can honestly say that I don't separate character dislike from quality of prose when it comes to my feelings about a book. A book is a package of many things, and they all play a part in my like or dislike. I've never in my life liked a book just because it was "well-written" or even "engaging." What matters to me is how I feel when I get to the end. Was the trip worth it? Unlikable characters can really skew the answer to that question if things haven't changed by the end.

I do think a lot of readers feel this way. I've gotten some of those kinds of reviews myself. Unlikable characters require extra-special storytelling skills and it's easy to miss the mark.



Offline MichaelRyan

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 226
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2018, 12:33:35 PM »
Gone Girl is one of my favorite all time novels.
I've read it 5 times and seen the movie twice.

I enjoyed Dark Places, although the movie tanked and I never watched it.

I haven't read Sharp Objects, but I'm assuming it's a good book considering HBO picked it up.

Flynn has written about why she decided to write with dark/unlikable heroines and it's worth considering that a well written character with understandable hurdles and goals can be very popular in spite of the fact they are evil.

With Gone Girl, in fact, she does it even farther, the ending of the book is horrible.  I loved to hate it and on each of the 2nd to 5th readings I kept hoping magically that Nick would run for the hills somehow....

All that said, it's certainly a lot harder to pull off a book with an MC that's loathsome.

One of my other favorite novels is Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and while the MC isn't hateful, she's pathetic and weak.  However, the story is written so well you just can't help (well at least I couldn't) continue to see what's going to happen to her.  This was also made into a movie, although I don't know if it was faithful to the story or not for the big screen.

It is possible to have a main side character like Hannibal become a fan favorite in spite of the fact he's a throughly evil and vicious killer.

Never say never, except on Tuesdays.
Michael Ryan | Facebook

Offline SalomeGolding

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 43
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2018, 12:36:31 PM »
But to be serious, if I'm going to spend that much time inside the head of a character, they need to have some kind of redeeming qualities. If not likeable, then at least not irritating, whiney, easy push-overs, that kind of thing.
See, I wrote that heroine the way I did because the heroine in my first novel was kind of a goodie-two-shoes, and it was a fun change to write someone who was a bit more flawed and rash and not at all like me. I don't think she's irredeemable (in fact the novel is kind of about her redemption through love), and I thought she would be interesting and more complex to read about, which would be the trade-off for the character flaws.

« Last Edit: June 11, 2018, 12:41:02 PM by SalomeGolding »

Author of Cross-Cultural Romances featuring black women
Salome Golding | Amazon | Twitter

Offline ShayneRutherford

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3642
  • Toronto, Ontario
    • View Profile
    • My Website
Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2018, 12:44:13 PM »
If the unlikeable character is a secondary character Ill probably be able to tolerate them. But when Im reading for pleasure, the last thing I want to do is spend my time with a character who aggravates me. That said, on my list of unlikeable traits, stupidity, immaturity, and cowardice would be my biggest turnoffs, while a character of questionable morality who can be redeemed would be interesting, and someone I could pull for. All that to say, likability is subjective.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2018, 01:14:06 PM by ShayneRutherford »
     

Offline levz

  • Status: Madeleine L'Engle
  • **
  • Posts: 54
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2018, 01:02:18 PM »
It's okay to have characters readers don't like.
...
 The important thing for a main character, however, is that your readers can somehow connect with and relate to them
....
They don't have to agree with the character's choices, but they should be able to empathize with them.

This makes a lot of sense.


There are plenty of characters that I've hated but still appreciated. I didn't hate those books.

There are also plenty of characters that I've hated that have caused me to hate the books they're part of.

Just the way it goes.

...

What matters to me is how I feel when I get to the end. Was the trip worth it? Unlikable characters can really skew the answer to that question if things haven't changed by the end.
...

Unlikable characters require extra-special storytelling skills and it's easy to miss the mark.

Sums up my feelings perfectly.  I agree that it can be done, but, yes, it requires "extra-special storytelling skills" and for you to be intentionally crafting your character in that way.  I do think sometimes the unlikeable part - if thats how the character is perceived - is unintentional.  Like, for example, the " irritating, whiney, easy push-overs" that Simon mentioned - probably not what most people are aiming for  (unless perhaps they're also crafting some kind of arc that overcomes/confronts that) and the sort of thing that can put off readers in terms of MCs, if reviews are to go by anyway. 

Offline LSMay

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 470
  • Gender: Female
  • New Zealand
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2018, 01:13:50 PM »
You can have a horrible character, but you need to give the reader something to like about them. One of my MCs does some objectively bad things but she's fighting for a good cause.

Or there's the likes of Dr House - I wouldn't want to be his friend, but I find him interesting. In that case humour and a drive to save someone's life make up for basically being a jerk.

L S May | Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Offline David VanDyke

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1781
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2018, 01:15:15 PM »
Your protagonists doesn't need to be likable. They just can't be UNlikable.

Think Jessica Jones. Not likable--but interesting and not someone you end up hating. In fact, you end up liking her more and more as you understand her.

But if you start off with an UNlikable protagonist too soon, you will lose many readers.


Futuristic Thrillers, Mysteries and Science Fiction
David VanDyke | Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter[/

Offline RRodriguez

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 349
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • The Pixie Chronicles
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #16 on: June 11, 2018, 01:19:32 PM »
I'd say a large majority of the time if I don't like, or at least can't empathize, with the protagonist, I won't like the book. I won't say it's 100%, because I'm sure there will be an exception someday, but it's definitely almost always. And I resent the insinuation that I'm "immature" for reading this way.
thepixiechronicles.com

Offline Bards and Sages (Julie)

  • Status: Harvey Chute
  • *********
  • Posts: 13638
  • Gender: Female
  • New Jersey
  • Her Royal Sithiness
    • View Profile
    • Bards and Sages Publishing
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #17 on: June 11, 2018, 01:20:27 PM »
I think sometimes people use the work "unlikable" when they mean "uninteresting."

There are plenty of characters that I HATED but loved to read about...waiting for them to get what was coming to them. And then there are characters that are likable enough but just don't interest me.

And particularly if it is the main character, that person MUST be interesting or, for me, the entire book falls apart. If I can't bring myself to be interested in the person, I have no interest in what happens to that person. And if I don't care what happens to the person, I'll lose interest in the book because...why keep reading if I'm not interested in what is happening?

Writer, Publisher, Game Designer, Resident Sith
Julie Ann Dawson | Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | eFesitival of Words

Offline SalomeGolding

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 43
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #18 on: June 11, 2018, 02:10:19 PM »
I'd say a large majority of the time if I don't like, or at least can't empathize, with the protagonist, I won't like the book. I won't say it's 100%, because I'm sure there will be an exception someday, but it's definitely almost always. And I resent the insinuation that I'm "immature" for reading this way.
Huh?

No, the reviewer said the character was immature.

I'm not saying that the reviewer was immature for not liking the book because she didn't like the character.

ETA: I edited the OP to make this clear.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2018, 07:16:03 PM by SalomeGolding »

Author of Cross-Cultural Romances featuring black women
Salome Golding | Amazon | Twitter

Offline cdk

  • Status: Madeleine L'Engle
  • **
  • Posts: 56
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #19 on: June 11, 2018, 02:31:36 PM »
I think it's possible to like a book without liking the main character.

I wrote a crime fiction book where the main characters are grifters and it received a 3 star review.  The reviewer said she hated the characters (all main characters are grifters) because she couldn't root for anyone.  The reviewer explained that she arrived at 3 stars by starting with 1 star because she hated the characters, but because she found the story so compelling that she couldnt stop reading, she rated the story and writing 5 stars and then she averaged that to 3 stars for the review.

My goal was to create a grifter as a good character, but it's not easy when you also have to show the character in their element of grifting throughout the story.

Other readers understood and responded the characters had to be that way because, after all they were grifters, but in the end, I think it helped that some grifters were worse than others, so even though the main character is bad, she was good for a grifter.

I think it ultimately depends on why a reader doesn't like a character.  I can't stand rude people, so I'm unlikely to continue reading a book where the main character is rude if a comeuppance isn't on the horizon.  Other readers like and prefer rude, smart-alecky or snarky characters.  I think there are some negative personality traits that some readers will tolerate, but those same personality traits are fatal to others.  Immaturity is tolerated in youth, less so in adults.

Just a thought.

Offline ameliag

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 33
  • Hello all! :D
    • View Profile
    • My website
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #20 on: June 11, 2018, 02:48:00 PM »
The MC is the star of any book. So if the MC is unlikable, the rest of the book may suffer (even when the other characters are better). If one is going to dedicate 200+ pages, the MC better be as likable and entertaining as possible. This is especially true if you're writing first POV. Tough the MC doesn't have to be a flawless being, just likable enough for readers to identify with (and root for.)

I'm going through this exact same problem with my own MC.

Online Jena H

  • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
  • *******
  • Posts: 6668
  • North Carolina
  • Desperate character
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #21 on: June 11, 2018, 02:51:05 PM »
This isn't quite the same, but in my MG series, one reviewer took a star away because "Kristen drove me insane with her rude remarks."  The character Kristen is about 13, and I wrote her to be flip and snarky, but apparently the reader felt she was simply rude.  (On the plus side, Kristen is also bold and resourceful.)

Can't please everyone.
Jena

Offline geronl

  • Status: A A Milne
  • ******
  • Posts: 4263
  • Mirrors are scary to me, lol
    • View Profile
    • Floyd Looney's Sci-Fi
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #22 on: June 11, 2018, 03:00:09 PM »
I can't devote my time to reading a book with a main character I don't like.  They don't have to be any certain way, but if they are completely unlikable I won't keep going.

What if the main character is the bad guy? But likable?

Floyd Looney

Online SevenDays

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2938
  • Gender: Female
  • PNW
  • Imagine something cool and witty here.
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #23 on: June 11, 2018, 03:02:25 PM »
Hmm. Interesting. So what determines the "sometimes"? Is it whether, like Mikaela says, you can relate to the character and understand their motivations?

I've got to look that series up.

I can't put my finger on it. Sometimes the character is such a zero that I can't relate. Or they're TSTL (too stupid to live). Sometimes they're so awful that I can't get past my dislike and read further, no matter how highly the book comes recommended. For example, Lord Foul's Bane, the first Thomas Covenant book. Within the first few pages I was so repulsed by the main character that it was an instant NO for me.


Alex A. King | Website

Online SevenDays

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2938
  • Gender: Female
  • PNW
  • Imagine something cool and witty here.
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #24 on: June 11, 2018, 03:03:55 PM »
Your protagonists doesn't need to be likable. They just can't be UNlikable.

Think Jessica Jones. Not likable--but interesting and not someone you end up hating. In fact, you end up liking her more and more as you understand her.


She's a great example. She's so prickly but it becomes obvious pretty quickly why she is the way she is.

Alex A. King | Website

Offline FridayRaccoon

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 18
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #25 on: June 11, 2018, 03:39:28 PM »
I think it is okay as long as their personality improves by the end of the book, Or if a reason is given.
One of my favorite books has a very unlikeable main character, but as the book continues, she sees how people react to her words and actions and changes for the better. Although I admit I probably wouldnt have finished the book if I didnt have a must finish every book I start rule at the time.

A good example might be The secret garden?

Offline Pandorra

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1047
    • View Profile
    • Legends of Elera
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #26 on: June 11, 2018, 03:45:27 PM »
I have a problem reading books for MC's I don't like, even if the romantic interest or sidekick is someone I don't like, I tend to skip over quite a bit of the book or just don't finish it. And yes, I will review a book based on that feeling since it makes me uncomfortable and tends to cancel out any good portions of the book because I am annoyed with the MC most of the time.
I am not sure there is a 'it depends' for me, I know there was one series where the MC's never grew up over the course of 8 books (immature, childish behavior throughout though they were supposed to have gained experience and such as the series went on), I read the series because it was just brilliant (and free on KU) but the chars were so bad that the book lost a lot of credibility in my eyes... so where it would have went on my fav list and been reread, now it's been dumped in the garbage pile and I haven't recommended it to anyone... In another, one of the MC's got increasingly whiny over the course of the books and I stopped reading the series just because she was in so many of the scenes and I couldn't avoid her... breaks my heart to see a great story ruined by one or more bad MC's but it does happen.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2018, 03:52:02 PM by Pandorra »
Edge-Reaper\'s Legacy: 24%

Legends of Elera - Covenant: 75%

Evolution\'s Fury: 35%
Dean Rencraft | Authors in Motion

Offline CathleenT

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 138
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #27 on: June 11, 2018, 03:58:31 PM »
If a book doesn't have a main character with at least some redeeming characteristics and hope for betterment, I don't want to read it.

Online ellenoc

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3841
  • Gender: Female
  • Colorado
  • Mystery and romance
    • View Profile
    • Ellen O'Connell
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #28 on: June 11, 2018, 04:15:29 PM »
Don't go changing things over a single review. If a significant percentage of your readers say or hint at something along the same lines, then it's time to reevaluate, but each reader brings her own background and opinions to her reading and sees things differently. So any one reader can be an outlier.

Offline MClayton

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 293
  • Gender: Female
  • Florida
    • View Profile
    • Website
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #29 on: June 11, 2018, 05:32:48 PM »
I can enjoy a novel even if I don't care for the protagonist. I think the key - for me - is that there has to be something relatable, even if it's relatable to my deepest, darkest thoughts. For example, I disliked every single character in We Need to Talk About Kevin, but when someone asks me my favorite contemporary novel, it immediately comes to mind because I experienced such strong feelings while reading it.

Offline Kal241

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 759
  • Gender: Male
  • Things are never what they seem
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #30 on: June 11, 2018, 05:36:43 PM »
I haven't yet read a book with an MC that I hated or disliked. Plenty of secondary characters I disliked, and almost every villain I hated.

The way I see it, characters can be viewed multiple ways. Ask two readers what they think of a character, and you may not get the same answer. Someone found your character unlikeable, but did everyone? If so, why? A character can be a jerk at times, so long as there is a reason for it. In my experience, people tend to hate the characters who are horrible just for the sake of being horrible.

Think of it like Anakin Skywalker vs. Darth Vader. People hate Anakin because he's the MC, was a nice guy, but turned into a jerk. Apart from the whole 'my wife may die and my mom is dead' thing, he had no legitimate reason to be a jerk. So really, he's a jerk for the sake of being a jerk. That's an automatic "I hate you" from plenty of people. Nobody hates Vader for being a jerk, because he's the bad guy; they're supposed to be jerks. It's only later that you find out why he's a jerk, which sheds a sympathetic light on him. Point is, you want Vader, not Anakin.

An artist and a writer combined into one being. When you work with Kal, you get a 2-4-1 deal!  

Check out my artistry at: http://kal241.deviantart.com/
Writing samples of mine will be made available upon request.

Online OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 24
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #31 on: June 11, 2018, 05:48:19 PM »
Reading a book is like going on a long car ride with a stranger. You don't want someone you hate, or someone you know. You want interesting, someone that you can relate to and like but is still far enough away from you to carry a conversation. I have good friends I won't go on car trips with because we've known each other too long, and strangers that I'd love to get in the car with.

If I hate your character then I'm out. Nothing else matters, not the scenery, conversation or how interesting they are. Writing a redeemed character is always tricky because the core has to stay in that sweet spot while the outside behaviors change. I've known addicts that were crap while they were using and even worse crap once they quit and the opposite.

I have an excel spread sheet that I go over with my Beta Readers with a series of questions they rate 1 to 5 and some that are open ended.
What's your favorite character?
What's the one word you'd use to describe the MC?

If I get the feeling that the MC is trending toward jerk or weak I start tuning the story up to weed that out. Look at TV, how many shows would you watch if you hated the lead? I bet it won't be anywhere near the amount you'd watch if you liked them. And that says it all. Doesn't matter if it's one or a hundred that are turned off by an MC they don't like, the point is that you'd have more success with a more likable one. That doesn't mean cutting out complex issues or [crap] behavior but it does mean making sure you keep it inside the rails.

By the way love the avatar photo, super original.

To be broken is to be singularly beautiful. Only the shattered are unique in a world of plastic. Scars are the tribal marks of the forgotten, they are how we know our own.

Offline Jenwrites

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 16
  • Gender: Female
  • Texas
  • Safe = Regrets
    • View Profile
    • J. Leigh James
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #32 on: June 11, 2018, 05:49:31 PM »
Don't write a character simply to make them likeable. Write a character who perfectly fits the story. We all have our preferences, and some will like your character while others won't. It doesn't hurt to understand why someone might not like the MC, but that doesn't mean you change the character simply to please one person. If your character is perfectly suited for the story, and you gave the reader the experience you wanted them to have, then that's all that matters.
Granted: 85%

Mistletoe Madness: 70%

Son of Water: 10%
J. Leigh James | website | Facebook

Offline PamelaKelley

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2805
  • MA
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #33 on: June 11, 2018, 05:56:16 PM »
99% of the time, I want a likable main character. But every now and then I enjoy someone who is unlikable but interesting. Gone Girl is a perfect example. I pretty much hated Amy and was annoyed with Nick, but the story was fascinating and I am in the minority but I thought the ending was perfect. They got exactly what they deserved.

Offline MyraScott

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1545
  • Gender: Female
  • Ideas are worth nothing until implemented
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #34 on: June 11, 2018, 06:07:06 PM »
What if the main character is the bad guy? But likable?

Then he's not unlikeable! We can cheer for a bad guy, if properly presented.

Offline thegreenheron

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 11
    • View Profile
    • Author Website
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #35 on: June 11, 2018, 06:36:39 PM »
You can't please everyone; likability is subjective. Think of Holden Caulfield. Take a poll and you'll find people who both love the character and hate him.

For me, I need to find a character I can latch onto in a story. That's why I never liked, "The Great Gatsby." I can appreciate Fitzgerald for his beautiful prose and symbolism, but I found the characters in the novel so insipid and so unlikable that I could not like the book.

That said, I find redemption stories very powerful, and any good redemption story needs a fairly unlikable MC. How can you not like the story of the Grinch? But if I stick with an unlikable character, I want the payoff of seeing them redeemed at the end. If I don't get that payoff, I leave the book feeling unsatisfied.

Offline AnnaB

  • Status: Madeleine L'Engle
  • **
  • Posts: 75
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #36 on: June 11, 2018, 06:47:37 PM »
I don't need to find the protagonist(s) likeable, but if I don't they'd better be very interesting for some other reason(s), and/or be the best point of view from which to bring to life whatever events are narrated through their lens.

Offline C. Gold

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2114
    • View Profile
    • Golden Elm Publishing
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #37 on: June 11, 2018, 06:53:12 PM »
Hannibal, the series. That guy is charismatic, creepy, funny, horrifying, and a lot of other stuff but he's super interesting and you can't wait to see who he tricks into eating his people food next.  :o

John Wick. Assassin. Does evil things. But we root for him because of the puppy.

The Punisher and many other anti-heroes who do some pretty mean things but they do it to those who deserve it. In general, if your unlikable person is taking out even more unlikable evil people, then they are elevated to likable.

Prince of Thorns and Thomas Covenant are fantasy series that some people hate, others love. The main characters in both are repellent. But interesting to many.

Raistlin in Dragonlance was my favorite character even though he was only interested in growing his magic power to the exclusion of even his physical health. Why did I love him so? Because he had a soft spot for the weak and got dealt a very bad start in life. His beginnings made him who he was. He was interesting and made me root for him. He was the lost soul you wanted desperately to see saved. Those other characters around him were 1-D while he was complex.

Same with Snape in Harry Potter. I loved his character. He reminded me a lot of Raistlin.

I could go on.

I also think male characters get an easier pass on likeable even as they are doing bad things. A woman doing bad things is seen as whiny, weak, shallow, airhead, b*tchy, immature, nag, insufferable, slut, frigid, or other derogatory term because of society. If women aren't nurturing and wholesome, people tend to see them as unlikable. This is why the guy can sleep around before meeting the right girl, but have the woman sleep around a lot and suddenly that romance isn't as popular. I think sometimes women are our own worst critics.

I need to relate in some way to the main character. I love evil people who have to suddenly do something to save the world or save someone they love or get revenge. If they even love one person besides themselves, then there is a redeeming quality. Or they are a Riddick where you send an evil to take out a greater evil.

Online Jena H

  • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
  • *******
  • Posts: 6668
  • North Carolina
  • Desperate character
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #38 on: June 11, 2018, 06:55:34 PM »
You can't please everyone; likability is subjective. Think of Holden Caulfield. Take a poll and you'll find people who both love the character and hate him.

For me, I need to find a character I can latch onto in a story. That's why I never liked, "The Great Gatsby." I can appreciate Fitzgerald for his beautiful prose and symbolism, but I found the characters in the novel so insipid and so unlikable that I could not like the book.

That said, I find redemption stories very powerful, and any good redemption story needs a fairly unlikable MC. How can you not like the story of the Grinch? But if I stick with an unlikable character, I want the payoff of seeing them redeemed at the end. If I don't get that payoff, I leave the book feeling unsatisfied.

I honestly can't recall if I've ever read The Great Gatsby.  As an English major in college, I feel sure I probably did, but if so, I honestly don't remember.  And if I didn't, it doesn't sound like a book I'd like.

Getting back on topic, last year I read a book that won a Pulitzer in its day.  I read the whole thing, but I have to say I really did NOT like the main character.  He was a selfish, egomaniacal jerk with major entitlement / superiority issues.  To be honest, I read the entire book hoping for a scene in which he gets his comeuppance.  That doesn't mean the book isn't good, though.
Jena

Offline C. Gold

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2114
    • View Profile
    • Golden Elm Publishing
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #39 on: June 11, 2018, 07:01:06 PM »
I honestly can't recall if I've ever read The Great Gatsby.  As an English major in college, I feel sure I probably did, but if so, I honestly don't remember.  And if I didn't, it doesn't sound like a book I'd like.

Getting back on topic, last year I read a book that won a Pulitzer in its day.  I read the whole thing, but I have to say I really did NOT like the main character.  He was a selfish, egomaniacal jerk with major entitlement / superiority issues.  To be honest, I read the entire book hoping for a scene in which he gets his comeuppance.  That doesn't mean the book isn't good, though.
I hated both Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby because I couldn't relate to the main characters at all. I learned to hate a lot of classic literature in my teens.  >:(

Offline SalomeGolding

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 43
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #40 on: June 11, 2018, 07:14:10 PM »
Gone Girl is one of my favorite all time novels.
I've read it 5 times and seen the movie twice...

Flynn has written about why she decided to write with dark/unlikable heroines and it's worth considering that a well written character with understandable hurdles and goals can be very popular in spite of the fact they are evil.
...

One of my other favorite novels is Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and while the MC isn't hateful, she's pathetic and weak.  However, the story is written so well you just can't help (well at least I couldn't) continue to see what's going to happen to her.  This was also made into a movie, although I don't know if it was faithful to the story or not for the big screen.

I *loved* Gone Girl.

See, I can read about kind of nasty main characters, if they are interesting and have some kind of humane kernel within. But "sad and pathetic"? Now ,that kills me. I think some of Susan Elizabeth Phillips' and Marian Keyes' heroines lean towards sad and pathetic, and though they are two of my favorite popular novelists, that surely diminished my enjoyment of the books in question.

Author of Cross-Cultural Romances featuring black women
Salome Golding | Amazon | Twitter

Offline SalomeGolding

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 43
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #41 on: June 11, 2018, 07:14:59 PM »
There are plenty of characters that I've hated but still appreciated. I didn't hate those books.

There are also plenty of characters that I've hated that have caused me to hate the books they're part of.

Just the way it goes.

I can honestly say that I don't separate character dislike from quality of prose when it comes to my feelings about a book. A book is a package of many things, and they all play a part in my like or dislike. I've never in my life liked a book just because it was "well-written" or even "engaging." What matters to me is how I feel when I get to the end. Was the trip worth it? Unlikable characters can really skew the answer to that question if things haven't changed by the end.

I do think a lot of readers feel this way. I've gotten some of those kinds of reviews myself. Unlikable characters require extra-special storytelling skills and it's easy to miss the mark.
Insightful synopsis.

Author of Cross-Cultural Romances featuring black women
Salome Golding | Amazon | Twitter

Offline SalomeGolding

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 43
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #42 on: June 11, 2018, 07:28:42 PM »
...
I also think male characters get an easier pass on likeable even as they are doing bad things. A woman doing bad things is seen as whiny, weak, shallow, airhead, b*tchy, immature, nag, insufferable, slut, frigid, or other derogatory term because of society. If women aren't nurturing and wholesome, people tend to see them as unlikable. This is why the guy can sleep around before meeting the right girl, but have the woman sleep around a lot and suddenly that romance isn't as popular. I think sometimes women are our own worst critics...
You may be on to something. I think that may be part of the problem with this particular heroine for this particular reader.

Author of Cross-Cultural Romances featuring black women
Salome Golding | Amazon | Twitter

Offline jb1111

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 346
  • PNW US
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #43 on: June 11, 2018, 07:31:15 PM »
To the OP:
Perhaps the reader was one with whom your main character hit all the wrong buttons, for some reason you'll never be able to figure.

I wouldn't change anything over it. I've had reviews downgrading a few of my characters. I see it as evidence that the writing was effective.

People don't respond that way to poor writing.

And not every reader of the same book is going to see the character in the same light.

I always try to present the main character in some sort of sympathetic light, even if their actual character has major flaws. This is because I think the average reader identifies with a main character to a certain extent.

Offline SalomeGolding

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 43
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #44 on: June 11, 2018, 07:32:59 PM »
I think it ultimately depends on why a reader doesn't like a character.  I can't stand rude people, so I'm unlikely to continue reading a book where the main character is rude if a comeuppance isn't on the horizon.  Other readers like and prefer rude, smart-alecky or snarky characters.  I think there are some negative personality traits that some readers will tolerate, but those same personality traits are fatal to others.  Immaturity is tolerated in youth, less so in adults.

Just a thought.
You're right. Snark or even occasional rudeness is not a problem for me. In fact, I kinda like it. But weakness, absolute stupidity or absence of compassion or love for anyone, those are the kiss of death for me.

Author of Cross-Cultural Romances featuring black women
Salome Golding | Amazon | Twitter

Offline Nic

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2751
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #45 on: June 11, 2018, 08:15:03 PM »
While it is, remotely, possible to like a book even though you hate the main character, that has never happened to me. If I really hate one of the MCs, I won't finish the book and probably review accordingly. Or in other words: there are a couple of classic romances and romantic novels I like, but "Wuthering Heights" wasn't one of them for obvious reasons. Never mind it being a classic and well-written.

Offline Simon Haynes

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1624
  • Gender: Male
  • Perth, Australia
  • Born in the UK, raised in Spain, now Australian
    • View Profile
    • Home page
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #46 on: June 12, 2018, 02:29:57 AM »
In one of my novels the main character acts like a bit of a jerk for about 80% of it. In the last 20% of the novel he starts to get on top of things, and as a result he becomes more relaxed and likeable. And at the end he makes huge sacrifices to save someone else.

Naturally, I got reviews from people saying they gave up 2/3 the way through because the main character was a jerk.

This is the risk you run with a jerk of a main character - people may not stick around to see if he or she comes good in the end. There has to be some hint of kindness in there, or at least a hint that things may improve.

If I were writing the novel again, I'd have him risking his life in chapter two to save several thousand baby ducklings.


Also yWriter novel writing software & SalesScanner, a free KDP/Google/Smashwords/Createspace sales analyser for PC.

Offline Mercia McMahon

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3618
  • Gender: Female
  • London
  • living in the Shadow of pulp speed
    • View Profile
    • Mercia McMahon
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #47 on: June 12, 2018, 03:46:55 AM »
I like characters whom I would probably hate to have as a work colleague and would never ever be my friend. But I stop reading a book when its first person perspective narrated by a whiny self-involved so and so who is snarky about everyone else they encounter. I also will not continue reading a book where someone from the English-speaking world visits a non-English speaking country and derides the locals. I don't care if their racism is overcome later in the novel I ain't reading any further in case it isn't. I also stop reading if the main character is a rapist or domestic abuser. Everyone has their standards that make them hate a book and are entitled to put that in a review, but you can't write a character to please everyone as that is an impossible task. PS, I love the character of Heathcliff.


no longer writing political works (for work reasons)
Mercia McMahon | Author Site | Publishing Site | Pinterest

Offline idontknowyet

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 206
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #48 on: June 12, 2018, 05:59:43 AM »
I actually just found a book that I hated the mc so much I couldn't stand it. I had to stop reading the book.

He was living is poverty. Working on his art which wouldn't have been an issue, but he refused to get a job because life was all about his art. On the other hand he couldn't pay his bills and he was always having his electric and water turned off. He couldn't afford food. instead of taking work to support himself until his art did he expected his friends to "help" him. He was embarrassed by his poverty but not enough to work to change it. He even thought about prostituting himself for a meal. Not because he was desperate for food but because he liked sex so why not get a free meal for it.

Just ick!

Offline SalomeGolding

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 43
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #49 on: June 12, 2018, 06:14:17 AM »
You can't please everyone; likability is subjective..
Wise words, which many have echoed. It just kind of makes your head snap back momentarily when a reader says s/he doesn't like a character that you wrote carefully (you think). You start thinking: What could I have done differently? But then you realize that whatever you had done differently, someone wouldn't have liked it.

Author of Cross-Cultural Romances featuring black women
Salome Golding | Amazon | Twitter

Offline Kate.

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1171
  • Gender: Female
  • Australia
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #50 on: June 12, 2018, 06:44:24 AM »
I think a lot of it comes down to the author's intent and the genre.

If the author *intended* for the character to be likeable and readers aren't responding well, that's a concern.

Unlikable characters are also easier to swallow in some genres than others. We love unraveling messed-up minds in thrillers. Or horror, where flawed characters usually get killed or traumatized. Even chick lit has a lot of selfish, shallow protagonists. Those kinds of stories revolve around the selfishness causing all kinds of hijinks before they recognize their not-great behavior and improve. 

But... maybe romance isn't the best genre for unlikable characters? A lot of romance is wish-fulfilment and escapism. I don't really want to escape into the mind of someone who would irritate me in real life.

That doesn't mean romance characters need to be saints. It's okay to have flaws, even huge ones. Just as long as there are also enough good traits to make me look forward to their happy ending.

Offline Puddleduck

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1056
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #51 on: June 12, 2018, 06:54:08 AM »
For me as a reader, it doesn't matter what the author's intent was. Not really. Even if the author meant for the MC to be a terrible person, I'm unlikely to get very far into the book. Unless I know (either from the blurb or from looking ahead) that the story is about the MC changing from a terrible person into a better person. If it's about the character's transformation, I can usually put up with how irritating they are in the beginning. Beastly by Alex Flinn is a good example of this. It's a beauty and the beast story, so of course the male MC is going to be a jerk at first, since the whole point of the story is him learning empathy.

Although I will say that if it's a horror/thriller with a really psychologically messed-up person, from their POV, I do find those fascinating. Even then, my tolerance for violence toward others has limits, so it depends on how it's done.

Most of the time when I see an unlikable MC, the author seems to think that the character is likable. Or doesn't think the flaws are all that bad. So I know that the MC is not going to get better, especially if there are no other characters pointing out the MC's bad points (which is usually a sign that the author is aware the MC is unlikable). Usually it's so-called good guys who are judgmental, stupid, offensive, crass, and a lot of other things that some people like, I guess, but make them incredibly unlikable to me. If the author thinks they've written a likable MC or an MC with only minor flaws that don't really need to be fixed or questioned, and I think they're horrible people or ones who just super annoy me, then we're just not seeing eye-to-eye, and I'm likely to put the book down and find something written by an author whose idea of an enjoyable character to spend time with is more in line with my own.

Offline thegreenheron

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 11
    • View Profile
    • Author Website
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #52 on: June 12, 2018, 07:01:21 AM »
Wise words, which many have echoed. It just kind of makes your head snap back momentarily when a reader says s/he doesn't like a character that you wrote carefully (you think). You start thinking: What could I have done differently? But then you realize that whatever you had done differently, someone wouldn't have liked it.

Oh, I totally hear you and sympathize. I haven't published my first novel yet, but my big worry (well, one of them anyway) is my main character isn't all that likable. And this is in a story I've been hacking away at for over four years and where the main character is the first-person narrator.

I say trust yourself. I mentioned Holden Caulfield as a character who seems to invoke very strong reactions--some loving the character, others hating him. But hey, Salinger created a character which got people talking, right? But even consider John Green -- he hit a home run by all measures with "A Fault in Our Stars," and many people loved Hazel and Augustus. (Obviously, given Green's success.) But you'll find plenty of people who really disliked those characters, too. In the end, there's no pleasing everyone, and often the criticism says more about the criticizer than it does the author or the characters you created. Even if you tried to create the most likable and wonderful character in the universe, someone would find some aspect of their character to complain about or which rubs them the wrong way or whatever. At least you created a character who was interesting enough to invoke a reaction.

Offline APeter

  • Status: Madeleine L'Engle
  • **
  • Posts: 63
  • Gender: Male
  • Pacific Northwest
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #53 on: June 12, 2018, 07:20:25 AM »
If the main character is unlikable (a jerk), I won't continue reading the book unless the story grabs me quite soon after starting it, which rarely happens. The one time I can remember when this occurred was with the Thomas Covenant series by Stephen Donaldson. I never cared for the main character, but I couldn't stop reading the first trilogy--and then the second one. IMO, they were excellent books.

Offline tdecastro31

  • Status: Madeleine L'Engle
  • **
  • Posts: 66
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #54 on: June 12, 2018, 07:24:08 AM »

Is it possible to *love* a book although you think that the main character sucks as a person?

Lolita is one of my favorite novels.  Does that answer the question?  :)

Offline George Trigiris

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 14
  • Gender: Male
  • Greece
  • Romance & Fantasy Ghostwriter Extraordinnaire
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #55 on: June 12, 2018, 07:43:38 AM »
Hate the book? No, most (sensible) readers don't, but not all readers are sensible.

More often or not, they can bash a book because the character did this or that they didn't like. If they do that, prepare for some serious nastiness. >:(
Romance & Fantasy Ghostwriter Extraordinaire.

50 Books and counting. If you're looking to have an incredible book written, all you have to do is pm me.

Offline Puddleduck

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1056
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #56 on: June 12, 2018, 08:00:17 AM »
Hate the book? No, most (sensible) readers don't, but not all readers are sensible.

So you're saying that all of us on here who are saying that we could hate a book if we hate the MC are not sensible? That's an awfully judgmental thing to say without backing it up with any actual logic or facts. I could as easily say it's not sensible to like a book when you hate the MC, but since that's purely my own feelings about it (and therefore a matter of pure personal opinion), I won't.

Offline geronl

  • Status: A A Milne
  • ******
  • Posts: 4263
  • Mirrors are scary to me, lol
    • View Profile
    • Floyd Looney's Sci-Fi
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #57 on: June 12, 2018, 09:48:08 AM »
where someone from the English-speaking world visits a non-English speaking country and derides the locals. I don't care if their racism is overcome later in the novel

speaking a different language is not "race" though

Floyd Looney

Online JRTomlin

  • Status: Agatha Christie
  • *********
  • Posts: 16881
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • J. R. Tomlin on Writing and More
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #58 on: June 12, 2018, 10:17:13 AM »
it depends a whole lot on the genre and of course unlikable male characters are about a thousand times more acceptable than female characters.

Saor Alba
J. R. Tomlin

Offline George Trigiris

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 14
  • Gender: Male
  • Greece
  • Romance & Fantasy Ghostwriter Extraordinnaire
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #59 on: June 12, 2018, 11:09:29 AM »
So you're saying that all of us on here who are saying that we could hate a book if we hate the MC are not sensible? That's an awfully judgmental thing to say without backing it up with any actual logic or facts. I could as easily say it's not sensible to like a book when you hate the MC, but since that's purely my own feelings about it (and therefore a matter of pure personal opinion), I won't.

No, you misunderstood me, it's my fault, though.

There are hundreds of women who have been cheated on (sad, but true). They tend to take out their frustration on books. Once, my MMC got kissed by someone other than the FMC (they had broken up). He didn't initiate it, he stopped it. The book in question got 200 reviews, 30 1-star and 2-star. Most of the negative reviews were by readers who claimed that they stopped reading when that happened. "Cheater alerts" were everywhere, although this doesn't really qualify as cheating.
Romance & Fantasy Ghostwriter Extraordinaire.

50 Books and counting. If you're looking to have an incredible book written, all you have to do is pm me.

Offline Jessie G. Talbot

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1439
  • Gender: Female
  • Raleigh, NC
    • View Profile
    • My Website
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #60 on: June 12, 2018, 12:04:31 PM »
Wow, everyone's bringing their baggage into this. As for me and my house we will prefer likable characters. They don't have to be angels but if they must be vicious I very much prefer it if their targets are deserving.

Think Bugs Bunny. His character didn't take off as long as he was making random people/critters miserable so his creators introduced a guy who was trying to kill him. Reacting to that made Bugs a star.

Jessie G. Talbot | Website | Twitter | Newsletter

Offline ShayneRutherford

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3642
  • Toronto, Ontario
    • View Profile
    • My Website
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #61 on: June 12, 2018, 01:07:48 PM »
I agree with Puddleduck, in that I dont usually care about authorial intent. If an author writes a character whos immature and annoying, Im not going to stick around to read the book just because they did it on purpose.
     

Offline Puddleduck

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1056
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #62 on: June 12, 2018, 01:40:42 PM »
No, you misunderstood me, it's my fault, though.

There are hundreds of women who have been cheated on (sad, but true). They tend to take out their frustration on books. Once, my MMC got kissed by someone other than the FMC (they had broken up). He didn't initiate it, he stopped it. The book in question got 200 reviews, 30 1-star and 2-star. Most of the negative reviews were by readers who claimed that they stopped reading when that happened. "Cheater alerts" were everywhere, although this doesn't really qualify as cheating.

Thank you for clarifying. I see what you mean here. I'm not involved deeply enough in romance to notice this, I guess. To me, a guy getting kissed (and not kissing back) is not cheating, even if he and the FMC hadn't been broken up. It's odd to me that readers would react to that as if it were.

and of course unlikable male characters are about a thousand times more acceptable than female characters.

Certainly not for me. Though if this really is a common trend among readers as a whole, it supports the idea that one shouldn't read reviews or interact with readers. Yeesh. You know what occurs to me most about the difference between an unlikable female character and an unlikable male character? The fact that people seem to accept "rapist" among the acceptable traits of an "unlikable male character" who they'll still happily read about. I wonder how many would accept "child molester" or "castrater of innocent men" as an acceptable trait of an "unlikable female character". "Sure, he's raped a bunch of women and it's actually one of his favorite past-times, but he's an anti-hero in an epic fantasy. What do you expect?" No. No no no. I get a whiff of that going on, I'm staying far, far away from that book.

Edited to change "grimdark epic fantasy" to just "epic fantasy" because from what I've seen, grimdark epic fantasy pretty much can't even exist without all the male MCs being rapists.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2018, 01:42:26 PM by Puddleduck »

Offline mike h

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 133
    • View Profile
    • Herman_Santangelo
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #63 on: June 12, 2018, 03:24:23 PM »
"Sacrifices" by Roger Smith was a well written book with all of the characters so flawed as to render them all completely unlikeable. I had to force myself to finish it. But the ending line, "At last she had his attention." was so shocking that it made the whole book worthwhile. So I have to add that endings can be everything, in spite of how disagreeable the characters are.

Offline Bookread

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 416
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #64 on: June 12, 2018, 03:56:55 PM »
I can't think of a book I've thought less of because of a particular character. I can think of TV shows I haven't finished because of a character, but I wouldn't review the show poorly because of it.
* * *  Join Our Writers Club!  * * *

https://www.patreon.com/AWritersPath

-Free editing
-Free blurb coaching
-Free query critique
-Free book coaching
-Free manuscript critique
-Free "one sheets" for your book
-Up to 50% off on over 55 writer-related services

Online JRTomlin

  • Status: Agatha Christie
  • *********
  • Posts: 16881
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • J. R. Tomlin on Writing and More
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #65 on: June 12, 2018, 04:08:50 PM »
Thank you for clarifying. I see what you mean here. I'm not involved deeply enough in romance to notice this, I guess. To me, a guy getting kissed (and not kissing back) is not cheating, even if he and the FMC hadn't been broken up. It's odd to me that readers would react to that as if it were.

Certainly not for me. Though if this really is a common trend among readers as a whole, it supports the idea that one shouldn't read reviews or interact with readers. Yeesh. You know what occurs to me most about the difference between an unlikable female character and an unlikable male character? The fact that people seem to accept "rapist" among the acceptable traits of an "unlikable male character" who they'll still happily read about. I wonder how many would accept "child molester" or "castrater of innocent men" as an acceptable trait of an "unlikable female character". "Sure, he's raped a bunch of women and it's actually one of his favorite past-times, but he's an anti-hero in an epic fantasy. What do you expect?" No. No no no. I get a whiff of that going on, I'm staying far, far away from that book.

Edited to change "grimdark epic fantasy" to just "epic fantasy" because from what I've seen, grimdark epic fantasy pretty much can't even exist without all the male MCs being rapists.
I was not saying that we all feel that way or that I do. But judging by reviews... it's a truth for a lot of readers.

In the Black Douglas Trilogy, the main character did some pretty bad things that I suspect would have never been acceptable in a female character. He did have another side to balance it. But executing prisoners in very cold blood (and a rather showy way) for example and the mercy killing of one of his lovers would be a tough sell in a female character.

Saor Alba
J. R. Tomlin

Offline Puddleduck

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1056
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #66 on: June 12, 2018, 04:28:47 PM »
I was not saying that we all feel that way or that I do. But judging by reviews... it's a truth for a lot of readers.

In the Black Douglas Trilogy, the main character did some pretty bad things that I suspect would have never been acceptable in a female character. He did have another side to balance it. But executing prisoners in very cold blood (and a rather showy way) for example and the mercy killing of one of his lovers would be a tough sell in a female character.

So you were referring to what you view as a majority perception of what is acceptable vs. what isn't--not to what actually is acceptable vs. what isn't. Whenever people make broad statements about what "readers" believe or will accept, and it's not true for me, I always like to point out that broad statements don't speak for me and there are many who disagree with whatever the generality is. I think we really need to be careful about saying things like "readers think" as if all readers were one cohesive, like-minded group, especially when using that information to suggest ways of writing. When everything is written for "readers" who aren't actually all readers, those of us who disagree with "readers" end up with less to read that we like.

(And now, more general comments on the topic, not necessarily only a response to you, JRTomlin.)

I've read about that trilogy, and that's a prime example of a series I'd never want to read. What "balances out" the bad actions is entirely up to the individual reader. Because it's not even 100% about whether or not I like the character. It's also about whether I personally want to stomach reading about activities that I find morally abhorrent, and whether the payoff is worth it. This is partly why I read spoilers or flip to the end of the book, to figure out what the payoff is when I find out about horrible stuff in books, so I can decide if I think it'll be worth it. Often, it's not. Often, it's because the author doesn't really fully grasp how abhorrent and repulsive reading about a major male character committing rape and other violence against women is, and so does not provide sufficient balance on the other side of the scale to make the payoff worth it to me. If a book has a male MC committing murder, rape, and torture, and in the end the payoff is, "He fell in love and that softened him enough that he stopped doing those things" (and that's a general example I'm making up, not referring to any specific book), that's not sufficient payoff for me because there's neither redemption nor punishment for those previous horrific actions, and I'm probably not going to be convinced that he actually regrets doing them.

I will say, though, that I can at least conceive of possible payoffs that would make reading about such behavior worth it for me. There are various ways an author could do it that could lead to a satisfying ending for me. Usually by him showing real remorse and then trying to do make right what he can, maybe actively preventing other people from doing those same actions, thus saving others from those fates. Something like that.

We as humans have our own internal sense of justice, and it's often quite strong, even if the specifics are unique to each of us. For one reader, "he's a rapist but he saved a kid's life" might satisfy the reader's sense of justice. For another, there are acts that are completely unforgivable, and any positive outcome for the character is unacceptable. (I wrote a romance once that involved the man doing one brief, fleeting instant of physical abuse to the woman and instantly regretting it, and I've gotten reviews saying that act was completely unforgivable no matter how the rest of the story went.)

What is an "unlikable" trait to one reader might be a likable one to me, also, so that's another factor.

What makes a character unlikable is unique to each reader. So you can really only answer the OP question for yourself. You can't (i.e. shouldn't) tell someone else that whether or not they think the character is unlikable is wrong, or whether or not reading about that unlikable character is balanced out by other aspects of the story to give an overall positive reading experience. We all have our own tolerances and preferences.

Offline Vaalingrade

  • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
  • *******
  • Posts: 5276
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • The Descendants
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #67 on: June 12, 2018, 04:32:39 PM »
A main character has to be at least a character you're willing to spend time with. Other parts of the story might make worse characters worth it, but if they're so obnoxious or such a sad sack or so uninteresting that reading about them becomes a chore, then there's your problem.

We also have to care about their arc. Are we rooting for them to become a better person and seeing that happen? Are we watching their entertaining self-destruction? Are the stakes on the line worth them being a means to the end from our point of view? This is also important.

This is another place where common writing knowledge is actually the howling madness of a hobo wandering down the street; the incoherent babbling of those who do not fully understand the very fire they hold in their hands. Do not. DO NOT. Write main characters as 'real people'. Write them as, say the kind of person you would like to read a book about instead. Real people hold long rambling conversations about their last boring vacation and you wish they would shut up.

AKA: Vaalingrade | Twitter: @ParadoxOmni [I mock the mockable]
The Descendants - An Original Bronze Age Superhero Web Serial

Online JRTomlin

  • Status: Agatha Christie
  • *********
  • Posts: 16881
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
    • J. R. Tomlin on Writing and More
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #68 on: June 12, 2018, 04:38:52 PM »
So you were referring to what you view as a majority perception of what is acceptable vs. what isn't--not to what actually is acceptable vs. what isn't. Whenever people make broad statements about what "readers" believe or will accept, and it's not true for me, I always like to point out that broad statements don't speak for me and there are many who disagree with whatever the generality is. I think we really need to be careful about saying things like "readers think" as if all readers were one cohesive, like-minded group, especially when using that information to suggest ways of writing. When everything is written for "readers" who aren't actually all readers, those of us who disagree with "readers" end up with less to read that we like.

(And now, more general comments on the topic, not necessarily only a response to you, JRTomlin.)

I've read about that trilogy, and that's a prime example of a series I'd never want to read. What "balances out" the bad actions is entirely up to the individual reader. Because it's not even 100% about whether or not I like the character. It's also about whether I personally want to stomach reading about activities that I find morally abhorrent, and whether the payoff is worth it. This is partly why I read spoilers or flip to the end of the book, to figure out what the payoff is when I find out about horrible stuff in books, so I can decide if I think it'll be worth it. Often, it's not. Often, it's because the author doesn't really fully grasp how abhorrent and repulsive reading about a major male character committing rape and other violence against women is, and so does not provide sufficient balance on the other side of the scale to make the payoff worth it to me. If a book has a male MC committing murder, rape, and torture, and in the end the payoff is, "He fell in love and that softened him enough that he stopped doing those things" (and that's a general example I'm making up, not referring to any specific book), that's not sufficient payoff for me because there's neither redemption nor punishment for those previous horrific actions, and I'm probably not going to be convinced that he actually regrets doing them.

I will say, though, that I can at least conceive of possible payoffs that would make reading about such behavior worth it for me. There are various ways an author could do it that could lead to a satisfying ending for me. Usually by him showing real remorse and then trying to do make right what he can, maybe actively preventing other people from doing those same actions, thus saving others from those fates. Something like that.

We as humans have our own internal sense of justice, and it's often quite strong, even if the specifics are unique to each of us. For one reader, "he's a rapist but he saved a kid's life" might satisfy the reader's sense of justice. For another, there are acts that are completely unforgivable, and any positive outcome for the character is unacceptable. (I wrote a romance once that involved the man doing one brief, fleeting instant of physical abuse to the woman and instantly regretting it, and I've gotten reviews saying that act was completely unforgivable no matter how the rest of the story went.)

What is an "unlikable" trait to one reader might be a likable one to me, also, so that's another factor.

What makes a character unlikable is unique to each reader. So you can really only answer the OP question for yourself. You can't (i.e. shouldn't) tell someone else that whether or not they think the character is unlikable is wrong, or whether or not reading about that unlikable character is balanced out by other aspects of the story to give an overall positive reading experience. We all have our own tolerances and preferences.
I have read a lot of novels and a lot of reviews. I stand by my opinion that a huge number of readers judge female characters more harshly than male.

None of my characters have ever committed rape OR violence against women. (I don't consider the mercy killing 'violence against women') People who don't like violence, don't like my novels. I am fine with that, but war is violent and brutal. Making it otherwise is a form of dishonesty that I find repellent.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2018, 04:43:50 PM by JRTomlin »

Saor Alba
J. R. Tomlin

Online Monique

  • Status: Isaac Asimov
  • ********
  • Posts: 11348
  • Gender: Female
  • California
    • View Profile
    • Written by Monique
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #69 on: June 12, 2018, 04:40:13 PM »

But... maybe romance isn't the best genre for unlikable characters? A lot of romance is wish-fulfilment and escapism. I don't really want to escape into the mind of someone who would irritate me in real life.

That doesn't mean romance characters need to be saints. It's okay to have flaws, even huge ones. Just as long as there are also enough good traits to make me look forward to their happy ending.

This. Genre matters.

Monique Martin | author website | facebook | twitter

Online CoraBuhlert

  • Status: Emily Dickinson
  • *******
  • Posts: 8193
  • Gender: Female
  • Bremen, Germany
    • View Profile
    • Cora Buhlert
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #70 on: June 12, 2018, 05:11:01 PM »
No character is universally likeable or unlikeable. Even characters like Thanos or Kylo Ren have their fans and defenders and you'd think they would be pretty universally unlikeable.

Whether a reader considers a characters likeable or unlikeable is largely subjective. For example, plenty of people here declared that they dislike snarky characters, whereas I usually like them. Meanwhile, my pet peeve is the whiny significant other (usually a wife/girlfriend, but I've also seen whiny boyfriends/husbands) who constantly complains, "Why must you go off to catch killers/reconquer the kingdom/slay dragons/defeat the alien invasion? What about me? You never have time for me." I hate, hate, hate such characters with a passion. However, this is obviously not universal, because a lot of my most hated whiny significant other characters were actually quite popular among readers/viewers.

Of course, there are some things which will make a character unpalatable for a large number of readers. Murder and/or rape (see Thomas Covenant and what's his name from Prince of Thorns), violence against those weaker than the character (anothe pet peeve of mine) will often make a character unlikable, though again plenty of people did like Thomas Covenant and the Prince of Thorns books. And cheating, whether it actually is cheating or just something like the non-reciprocal kiss mentioned above, is a dealbreaker for many romance readers.   


Cora Buhlert | Blog | Pegasus Pulp | Newsletter | Author Central | Twitter | Instagram | [url=http://www.pint

Offline Kay Camden

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 218
  • Gender: Female
  • Midwestern USA
    • View Profile
    • kaycamden.com
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #71 on: June 12, 2018, 07:23:13 PM »
For me,

unlikable + sympathetic = YES
unlikable + unsympathetic = NOPE

Just my two cents.

ETA: This applies to any genre. And I read pretty much anything.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2018, 07:25:01 PM by Kay Camden »
Twisty plots with smart heroines, haunted heroes, ancient feuds, forbidden love, magic, and revenge.
Kay Camden | kaycamden.com

Offline dgrant

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 610
  • North Texas
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #72 on: June 12, 2018, 08:15:08 PM »
Brandon Sanderson has a great breakdown on characters here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpsR4Q57RME

But if I get it right, he says you can visualize characters existing on multiple sliding scales.

In general you have everyman vs. superman - we can more easily identify with an everyman, but we like to watch supermen. But aside from that, all characters fall into three sliding scales:

The first is: Proactivity. The more proactive a character is, the more we want to watch what they'll do next, where they'll drive the story next. (The interesting villain problem usually happens when the villain is highly proactive, and the hero is reactive, and thus not as fun to read.)
The second is: Competence.
The third is: Likeability

A great character don't have to be high in all three. We like highly proactive, competent, unlikeable Sherlock Holmes, or House, or whosit on Breaking Bad. We like the competent, though not proactive, likeable everyman of Holmes. We like highly proactive, highly likeable, not-very-competent Groot. But on the other hand, if you get a boring character that's not very competent, not very likeable, and not proactive, then the book won't get finished.

There have been fantasy books where I didn't like the main character - but he was so competent, so proactive, so out to get things done, that I kept reading to see where the story would go next. Glen Cook does this well in Black Company. There have been scifi books and fantasy books where I didn't like the main character, thought they were whiny, dull, and passive/reactive, being pushed along by the plot instead of seizing the day... and most of those I didn't finish, and couldn't even remember the titles.

One I do remember and hate only because it was so highly lauded that I forced myself to put up with the whiny, self-centered, irritating little sniveling cowardly punk through the whole book, waiting for it to get better - and it never did. I hate it only because I spent that long, that continually disappointed with the book, with no emotional payoff at the end... like you can ignore and quickly forget the person next to you on the bus for six stops, but you can truly grow some hard feelings about the drunk that spends six hours spilling over his airline seat into yours, trying to hit on you and generally being an arrogant boor. After that, I've only made the mistake of forcing myself to finish highly acclaimed books twice, and both times I remember why I don't do that. Life's too short to spend time hating things that much.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2018, 08:16:40 PM by dgrant »


Offline antares

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 666
  • Gender: Male
  • Texas and Korea
    • View Profile
    • The Log of the Antares
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #73 on: June 12, 2018, 09:53:53 PM »
I recently got a review where the reader said she "didn't like the heroine at all!" because she (the heroine) was an immature user. (I'm paraphrasing).

She made no comment about whether or not she thought the novel was engaging and well written. She gave it a star rating lower than the couple of others received so far.

Early in Stephen Donaldson, Lord Foul's Bane, the MC Thomas Covenant rapes a teenage girl. I stopped reading at that point. I hated Covenant and I hated Donaldson. Was the novel 'engaging and well written'? I did not and do not care. I will never read Donaldson again.

You may keep in mind that I am one. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever was planned as a trilogy. It ran to a series of 10 books.



Is it possible to *love* a book although you think that the main character sucks as a person?
IMO, no. Hated Holden Caulfield. Hated Catcher in the Rye.

Offline Nic

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2751
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #74 on: June 12, 2018, 10:11:47 PM »
No, you misunderstood me, it's my fault, though.

There are hundreds of women who have been cheated on (sad, but true). They tend to take out their frustration on books. Once, my MMC got kissed by someone other than the FMC (they had broken up). He didn't initiate it, he stopped it. The book in question got 200 reviews, 30 1-star and 2-star. Most of the negative reviews were by readers who claimed that they stopped reading when that happened. "Cheater alerts" were everywhere, although this doesn't really qualify as cheating.

If you write romance or if the romance is an integral part of your story and these readers buy the book because of the romance in it, then it is your fault all right. You played foul with one of the most serious rules of romance: after (and often even before) the commitment of the MCs to each other (as a future couple), particularly of the MMC, there shalt be no dallying with anyone else.

This is regardless of whether or not the relevant party is responsible for the deed. If such a thing happens, major grovelling on their part needs to take place. Already if it is just flirting with someone else, but kissing means real grovelling, and more usually means self-flagellation of the realistic kind.

This may sound jocular, but in reality it is an absolutely serious matter. People do not read romance or romantic stories to witness cheating of any kind. There are some who are more tolerant of this, either because they enjoy reading about the supreme grovelling that character must engage in to redeem themselves, or because they tend towards erotic romance/erotica, where cheating isn't such a red rag to readers.

Don't mix romance/romantic elements and cheating, unless you are writing about the villain in a non-romance novel. As you also do not know what for your female readers read romantic books, I wouldn't presume to know why they hate cheating in them. That sort of prejudice doesn't pay.

Offline Doglover

  • Status: A A Milne
  • ******
  • Posts: 4950
  • Gender: Female
  • Huntingdon, United Kingdom
  • If you want real love, buy a dog.
    • View Profile
    • Margaret Brazear Author
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #75 on: June 13, 2018, 12:26:29 AM »
I recently got a review where the reader said she "didn't like the heroine at all!" because she (the heroine) was an immature user. (I'm paraphrasing).

She made no comment about whether or not she thought the novel was engaging and well written. She gave it a star rating lower than the couple of others received so far.

On balance, having reflected, I find it kind of amusing and am glad that the characters evoked such strong feelings in her. But now I am considering whether it would be better to create more likable heroines in the future.

To the more experienced writers - does this often happen? Do readers tend to judge your novels on whether or not they like the hero / heroine? If so, do you think that's unfair? Or do you just accept it and write more likable heroes/heroines?

As a reader, do you enjoy a novel less and/or give it lower ratings when you don't like the main character?

Is it possible to *love* a book although you think that the main character sucks as a person?
My second book had a review which said the heroine was difficult to like. Since it was written in first person and more or less me, I found it quite amusing! Mind you, it was still five star so I didn't mind too much.

As to not liking a book if the heroine is unlikable, well I for one could not stand Scarlett O'Hara. She was a totally spoilt little brat and probably deserved the miserable ending she got, but it didn't stop the book from being one of the major bestsellers of all time.


The past is another country; they do things differently there
Margaret Brazear | Website | Blog | Facebook | Readers Group | Newsletter

Online My Dog's Servant

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 978
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #76 on: June 13, 2018, 04:40:02 AM »
See, I wrote that heroine the way I did because the heroine in my first novel was kind of a goodie-two-shoes, and it was a fun change to write someone who was a bit more flawed and rash and not at all like me. I don't think she's irredeemable (in fact the novel is kind of about her redemption through love), and I thought she would be interesting and more complex to read about, which would be the trade-off for the character flaws.

Although you've already gotten a ton of answers, I couldn't resist. This made me flash on a Laura Kinsale book years ago--don't remember the title, but medieval with the hero called the Green Knight or something similar. I hated the book because the heroin was so horrible.....and then, almost at the very end, Kinsale revealed why she had behaved the way she did. Totally changed my perspective on the character and made her deeply sympathetic but, for me, Kinsale had put it way too late. Had she given me even a few hints much earlier in the story I would have been intrigued, wanting to know more. As it was...just way too late. And that was disappointing because there was so much about that book I could have loved.

Haven't read Catcher in the Rye since high school, but I still have a visceral loathing for Holden .

I have loved difficult, imperfect characters, but there has always been some central key I understood early on that made them sympathetic even if I did want to slap them around. (Though they do have to change and grow. My sympathies extend only so far!)

Online SevenDays

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2938
  • Gender: Female
  • PNW
  • Imagine something cool and witty here.
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #77 on: June 13, 2018, 04:58:27 AM »

Early in Stephen Donaldson, Lord Foul's Bane, the MC Thomas Covenant rapes a teenage girl. I stopped reading at that point. I hated Covenant and I hated Donaldson. Was the novel 'engaging and well written'? I did not and do not care. I will never read Donaldson again.


Yes! I mentioned the same book/character earlier in the thread. I don't care how good the books are supposed to be, Covenant is irredeemable to me.

Yet others were totally cool with that and loved the series.

Alex A. King | Website

Offline Puddleduck

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1056
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #78 on: June 13, 2018, 06:28:36 AM »
I have read a lot of novels and a lot of reviews. I stand by my opinion that a huge number of readers judge female characters more harshly than male.

None of my characters have ever committed rape OR violence against women. (I don't consider the mercy killing 'violence against women') People who don't like violence, don't like my novels. I am fine with that, but war is violent and brutal. Making it otherwise is a form of dishonesty that I find repellent.

I guess what I'm wondering is what your point is re: "a huge number of readers judge female characters more harshly than male". I've pointed out that it's not universal, and I've suggested that it's not desirable to use that opinion to suggest authors change the way they write to accommodate it. So are you simply making an observation, or were you trying to get at a larger point?

I think it's a bit disingenuous to leap from "rape" to "war violence" unless you're implying that writing about war must include writing about war rape in order to be not be "repellent dishonesty". The "but it's realistic" defense of rape and such doesn't really do anything for me because it's totally irrelevant. I know that rape in many situations is realistic. That doesn't mean I want it to be part of my leisure reading--which I do for escapism--unless there's a serious payoff afterward (which, as I've said, I rarely find there is). Not from the MC or any character we're supposed to get attached to, anyway. And I generally hate seeing it done against any female MCs or secondary characters, either. Basically, an MC raping or participating in/condoning rape = unlikable (to get back to the main point of the thread), and in a way that, unless there's a surprising payoff later, is something that's probably going to contribute to me hating the book. (I say contribute because if the MC is the kind of person to commit rape without some really serious remorse afterward, and the author is the type of person to write such events without including adequately balancing payoff, there are probably other things I will hate about the book.)

Offline Nick Marsden

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 392
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Nick Marsden Author
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #79 on: June 13, 2018, 07:17:07 AM »
There was a fantasy series called "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant". The main character was a leper who, when transported to a fantasy world, becomes a "hero". But he's pretty much a dick through the whole book. But the series is rather popular, even though Thomas Covenant as a character is pretty much universally reviled. There was even a second series written for the character.

Epic Fantasy Author
Nick Marsden | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter

Offline Mercia McMahon

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3618
  • Gender: Female
  • London
  • living in the Shadow of pulp speed
    • View Profile
    • Mercia McMahon
Re: Hate the main character, hate the book?
« Reply #80 on: June 13, 2018, 08:03:55 AM »
A certain very popular author at the mo defends rape in their novels as it is realistic for the war setting. So is defecating, but that is seldom made a major plot point. I could cope with an MC who defecates, but not one who rapes. Indeed I don't want to have to deal with a minor character who rapes.


no longer writing political works (for work reasons)
Mercia McMahon | Author Site | Publishing Site | Pinterest