Time for another spin on ye olde blog chain, and the question chosen by Michelle is not only good, but also extremely relevant to my current WIP.
In your reading and writing, which do you prefer – a main character that is intriguing, or one that is likeable? Who are the characters that you love the most? And who are the ones that you love to hate?
I think that what this question is really talking about are main characters that one would define as "antiheroes." According to this Wikipedia page listing fictional anti-heroes from books, movies, TV, comic books, and video games, there are several characteristics we can expect:
- imperfections that separate them from typically "heroic" characters (selfishness, ignorance, bigotry, etc.);
- lack of positive qualities such as "courage, physical prowess, and fortitude," and "generally feel helpless in a world over which they have no control";
- qualities normally belonging to villains (amorality, greed, violent tendencies, etc.) that may be tempered with more human, identifiable traits (confusion, self-hatred, etc.);
- noble motives pursued by bending or breaking the law in the belief that "the ends justify the means."
However, looking at this question from the writing instead of the reading end of the spectrum is quite different. I think that most writers tend to love the characters they create. I have a terrible habit of even loving my villains, and am always wanting them to find some kind of redemption in the end. The way I see it, they're not bad - just misunderstood.
In my current WIP my main character definitely falls on the anti end of the hero spectrum. Again and again she exhibits many of the traits listed by that Wikepedia entry, and yet I always kind of thought that these were the best things about her.
But then the crits came back from some of my beta readers. And I started seeing that "L" word from the question: "likeable." Except it was proceeded by a "UN".
I wasn't totally surprised, I knew my MC had a hard side that might turn some people off, but I had also tried to demonstrate that she also had a - although very well-hidden - softer side.
But then another one of my beta readers (my husband actually, whose critting skills I've mentioned previously) said that he loved the character and not to change a thing (Don't worry he balanced it out with lots of things he didn't like about the other characters and many other things.). I ended up discussing with him that some of my other beta readers felt my MC could be more sympathetic, and he wondered aloud if the character had been written as a man instead of a woman would they have felt the same way? Now what we expect from our male and female characters is probably a question for another blog chain, but it did make me think - especially since most of the popular anti-heroes that I can think of (and most of those on Wikipedia's list) are men.
Anyway, I am now in the tricky position of trying to make my MC a little more sympathetic while not comprimising who she is or watering her down too much. It's a thin line.
Back on the reading side of things I find that what helps me understand any character is when their motivations are clear. This is why when a character does something for no reason, or just to advance the plot (*cough cough* Entire last two seasons of Heroes. Yes, I know that's TV, not reading, but have you seen how bad it was? I think I've actually picked on it in a previous post, because I was so actually angry at what they did to those characters that I had to stop watching.) it can really turn me off.
There are also times when characters will just cross a line that I will not follow them, no matter what their motivations.
Does that answer the question? I think so. Except I can't really think of any examples of any anti-heroes I really enjoy except for House and that's TV.
Somebody help me out. Do you like anti-heroes? Who are some of your favorites (extra points if it's a woman, since they seem to be rare)? And are there any heroes or anti-heroes who you just found too anti to enjoy?
And to follow this entire blog chain you can find Carolyn before me and Mary will be immediately after.