Author Topic: Hate the main character, hate the book?  (Read 2156 times)  

Offline Kate.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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. >:(
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Offline Puddleduck

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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

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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

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Offline JRTomlin

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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.

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Offline George Trigiris

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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.
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Offline Jessie G. Talbot

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.
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Offline JRTomlin

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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.

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Offline Puddleduck

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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

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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.

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Offline JRTomlin

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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 »

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Offline Monique

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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.

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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.   


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Offline Kay Camden

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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 »
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Offline dgrant

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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

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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

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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.