The Good, The Bad and The Un-Likeable


To me the interesting main character is never the one without flaws. -J. J. Abrams

In keeping with my random thoughts while writing, posts…

There’s only one person I know of who walked the earth that was perfect. But the rest of us? The rest of us are far from perfect, despite what some would have you to believe. Reality is, they are as flawed as the people they love to talk about. I’m not casting aspersions- I’ve done my fair share of judging(because I’m not perfect) and it’s still a challenge to not continue to do so. But even when I don’t judge, sometimes I just don’t like someone. There- I said it. I could really care less about the reasons they came to be the person they are. I don’t need a biography or history lesson. There’s just something about them that makes me cringe. It’s usually from what I view as some sort of flaw. And so, because I don’t like them (notice I didn’t say hate- hate is not in my heart) I avoid them, not spending any quality time with them beyond what is required for the tasks we might be delegated to participate in simultaneously… e.g. at work. The feeling I’m sure is mutual because not everyone will like me either and I surely have my flaws so it’s understandable (shrugs).

You are probably wondering why I’m talking about something that we all experience and seems so obvious. Well, it’s simple for me. I’m writing a book as I’ve mentioned in my other posts, that happens to fall into the romance genre. And in romance specifically, I feel it is important for your reader to relate some kind of way to your characters and hopefully LIKE them. You don’t want your reader avoiding these characters or your book. If say, I were reading some sort of psychological thriller where the lead character is a sociopath (having many flaws) and has murdered people all over a town, I don’t need to like him or her and I most likely won’t. I just need to like that story, enjoy where it’s taking me-see if it keeps me on the edge of the seat and I might even relish in the possibility that this person is caught and brought to justice.

Not the case in romance. You kind of have to like them to care about whether the hero and heroine make it. As a reader, don’t you essentially become their champion? Rooting for at least one of them to get their man or get their woman after whatever challenge has been placed in the relationship? When I think about it-most of the comments I’ve shared with romance authors about their books I’ve enjoyed, started with me talking about how much I like so and so. The story was good, yes, but in romance, your characters drive that story of love. You love them, so you want them in love.

So what happens when you can’t stand a character? I mean when you really don’t like them and their flaws are hard to swallow. I’ve actually experienced this while reading something recently. The heroine’s character traits or flaws were aggravating and I started to feel that she didn’t deserve the hero. That he worked way too hard to convince her to love him or trust him. I felt that she was hard to deal with and that she cared more about her own feelings and never considered his before she acted. And those being character traits I don’t particularly care for in the real word-selfishness and being difficult-I’d stopped caring about whether they would get a happily ever after ending. She was also funny, well-dressed, had a good job and spent a lot of time with her friends but those other things about her…killed it for me. This is rare I admit, because many authors are able to balance the human flaws we all know exist; developing their characters with enough of what we admire about people and giving us a character that we can relate to and respect in spite of their flaws. But when not done effectively, flaws can ruin our perception of the character and effectively kill the romance.

So the moral of the story is to create a humanly flawed but likeable character in romance. How to do that is the question and as I write this story, I realize I’m liking the characters because they are people I like. What happens when the story you are telling has characters in it that you don’t like? I already have a character playing around in my head that I don’t like and in my blog post Conflict Resolution, I resolved that I would write her story regardless. I’m not sure what genre it will fall in but if it turns out to be romance, I’m hoping my readers will like her. Shoot, I have to figure out how I’ll even like her if it’s romance. And if I can’t figure out how to do that, I should probably just label it fiction.

Tell me: Have you written or read a story that you liked but you didn’t like the characters in it? Were their flaws too great for you?



8 thoughts on “The Good, The Bad and The Un-Likeable

  1. I think its hard to really like a story and not like the characters, because what else is there? I guess you can like the writing of a story, but if you don’t like the characters it might be hard to continue reading -even if the writing is excellent. It reminds me of one of my characters – Dallas Marcel- from Blue Roses. I remember my editor saying – ” I don’t know if I like Dallas, but I understand her.” I had to admit, there were times when she got on my nerves while writing her story, but I didn’t want her to be perfect. I wanted her issues to jump off the page (and they did…maybe too much). Lol. I also wanted her to have some romance so I partnered her with a REAL likeable hero which I think made the story work.

  2. It absolutely made the story of “Blue Roses” work. Until your comment, I forgot how Dallas made me feel at times. I didn’t dislike her but having Tyler to balance her made up for that little bit of uncertainty I felt about her. Thanks for pointing that out. I’m sure it will help me in the near future :). Thanks for stopping by and sharing your wisdom, Sharon.

    • Thank you Nikki!
      Nikki- I don’t think so. You’ve had time to get to know him and work him out and I don’t think you’d go there without figuring out how to redeem him. I’m looking forward to reading it. As far as my book, I’m working on it. That’s all I can say. The more I write, the better I feel about it but it’s still terrifying to put it out there. Thanks for continuing to follow me.

  3. I have a WIP which I’ve had an editor look at and go, “I hate your male protagonist.” He was a womanizer and very unapologetic about it. Yet, the female protag was smitten with him in college (in fact, it’s safe to say she was obsessed with him). My editor could not get over the fact that he cheated on my female protag in his heart and physically (which is what eventually broke them up, and broke her). Fast foward fourteen years later and they reconnect when she literally runs into his brother on an elevator at Johns Hopkins (their mutual place of work). Male protag has changed, but Female protag is now married and happily committed. Or is she? My editor didn’t like how she was still drawn to Male Protag after all this time. LOL I have sooo much fun with deeply flawed characters.

    • Hi LV! Thanks for stopping by!

      The reality is that people can be drawn to the most unlikeable person and others will wonder why he or she can go back to something that was once bad for them. But people can change if they want to so if you can convince the reader that there’s been change, then I think they can appreciate the story. I would. It takes genius from the author to convince the reader of that though but I’ve seen it done and I’m confident you can do it also. Let me know when I can expect to read this book.

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