If you don’t love the character who will?

I avoided the editing scene today by turning my attention to my work in progress instead and it was a welcome break.

I love my protagonist she starts out so weak and vulnerable and really develops into a strong person as the story progresses. She has faced great tragedy and although she didn’t cope well at first she in time comes to terms with it and becomes empowered. She makes me feel proud!

Her boyfriend however is another matter. He is tall, dark and handsome. He is kind and sensitive. He is creative, wealthy and generous. He does everything right. He sounds perfect right? Perhaps he is too perfect. I have grown bored of him already.

He was quite intriguing at first. He was mysterious. He had a secret. He was and still is flawed but now that the secret of that flaw is out in the open, he has lost appeal. The problem is he is intrical to the story’s end and therefore can’t be pushed aside. I must do something with him because if I find him boring, I am sure my readers will too. I feel a major rewrite coming on.

All this got me thinking about characters. Why do we love them or hate them for that matter? I have hated some of the characters in books that I have read with a passion and not just the villains, sometimes the good guy is down right dislikeable. I like characters I can relate to or at least feel sorry for. I want my characters to have flaws, to evolve, to show emotion.

In Harry Potter I hated Lucius Malfoy and Delores Umbridge right from the start. Both characters were well crafted and we are supposed to hate them. Catcher in the Rye – Holden Caulfield, I could not stand the guy and resented my eighth grade teacher for making me read the book. Why? Perhaps I could not relate to Holden or I just found myself bored.

So I am asking you writers and readers alike, what makes you love or hate a character?


About Billie Jo Schinnerer

Born and raised on the edge of the Helderberg Escarpment in eastern New York. Formerly a primary and middle school teacher. Moved to the North West area of England in 2003. Now a mother of three and a wannabe author.
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3 Responses to If you don’t love the character who will?

  1. Sara Douglass’s work is a good example of character love – I remember reading somewhere that she hated the character of Faraday and ended up doing horrible things to her. I didn’t hate Faraday, however. I did hate her main character, Axis. He started off likeable enough, but at the end of the sixth book he was such a smug, know-it-all, awesome, can do no wrong, god-person convinced of his own superiority, I was just itching for someone to chop his head off.

    A thoroughly unpleasant character who I happen to quite like on the other hand is Tyrion Lannister from George R R Martin’s ‘Ice and Fire’ series. He’s quite the complicated character and you never really seem to get a sense of what his motives are, or even if he knows himself.

    • usaukwoods says:

      So in that case the author hated her own character but you found them more likeable or less loathsome at least, interesting. Maybe their is hope for my boy yet then.

      • Yeah, she did horrible things to Faraday, but because she was integral to the plot she always managed to work her way through them. She was a teensy bit martyr-ish, but in the epic scale of the story it made sense, particularly given her character progression – which despite the author hating the character was quite well done.

        There’s always hope!

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