Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Attention All Writers: Whaddaya think?

Hello, writers! *waves hello*

This post is all about you, so I won't waste any time speaking my mind today.

Does an unlikeable main character make you put the book down?

If so, what is it about said character that makes you break away? If you're the type of reader that doesn't lose interest because of the character, what is it about them that makes you stick around?

Here are some examples of books with unlikeable main characters that have received a lot of buzz.

In the adult genre:

In the YA genre:

Confession: I haven't read either of these books. However, I've read several reviews and comments from readers who struggle with the main characters' actions.

I'm pretty curious: whaddaya think? Love 'em or leave 'em?


  1. It depends. Most of the time, unlikeable main characters do make me put the books down, especially if it's written in first person. But if the plot is compelling enough, I'll read on in hope they'll get better. :)

  2. I can get into a book with an unlikeable MC. It's difficult, I'd rather connect, but I won't stop reading. I've just recently read a book in fact where the MC in my opinion made selfish decisions throughout the entire book, still loved it.

  3. Good question, I don't think I've read too many books where I've disliked the MC. Usually the ones that make me stop reading a book are the too stupid to live characters.

  4. I struggle reading a book when the MC has no redeemable quality. I guess it depends on the writing, too.

  5. I think it depends on the story and the writing. I haven't read any books with MC that aren't likeable...yet.
    I do have Before I Fall on my TBR pile though.

  6. If I don't like the MC its hard for me to continue reading. I would put the book down. I agree with the too stupid to live characters. LOL

  7. I haven't read either of those books. =( I should put them on my tbr list.

    As for the unlikeable MC. I have a hard time reading them, especially if I'm going to put my time into a whole book of them. So I have to have them likable somehow. I guess it depends on if I connect with them. =)

  8. Hi

    I have to have some kind of empathy with a character - especially if s/he is the MC. Even if the character is so loathsome - there has to be something that I can connect with, otherwise what's the point? I'm thinking (and showing my age!) of something like the Outsider by Albert Camus. On the surface the MC is an amoral murderer who should be detested and loathed but the narrative is so powerful - a study on the existensialist nature of the psyche - that I read this novel in one sitting (a miracle considering I'm a very slow and lazy reader!). Then there is Sophie's World. I absolutely found the character of Alberto so creepy and so dubious that I couldn;'t read on, I just couldn't. Nothing he did was redemptive and everything he did was just sordid (for me - sorry if anyone here loves Sophie World - this is just my opinion!!).
    So I guess to cut this long comment short - I would read on if I begin the journey by gaining an understanding of the character - if I am made to look into his/her soul and find some kind of truth. But if there is nothing there and they continue to be opaque - I put the book down.

    take care

  9. Definitely leave 'em if I don't love 'em. Also, I have to respect them, and their actions must be true to life, not made up because the author decides this is how the character should act but the reader is going "What the--?" That was my problem with Sebold's The Lovely Bones. It seemed false to me. I couldn't take it. Hated that book. Plot schmot. I need real characters I can identify with. Even a villain is identifiable if the actions ring true.

  10. Sandy Shin put it perfectly: if the plot is compelling enough, I'll read on and just hope that the character becomes more interesting and/or sympathetic.

  11. I agree with Amanda and Sandy too - I think it depends on the plot, even though if the MC does not become more likable/relatable throughout the story, I tend to get very upset with him/her. I'll probably finish it though, because I hate leaving things unfinished.

  12. It really depends on the writing and the story overall for me. It could have the worst MC in the world, but still if the writing is rich and read like poetry, I would read it.

    And soon, an unlikable MC might turn out to be likable MC in the end, because the author doesn't create a MC to be hated but to have a connection with the readers really. At least, that's what I see with what all the books I've read.

    Very interesting post. Write on!

  13. The character's only one component of the larger "broth" of the narrative, a component nested with theme, plot, and the interactions with other characters. So the short answer is: it depends on what else is going on around the unlikable character. Is it meaningful? Is the prose well-written and engaging?

    Interesting question, though. Good post!

  14. I can keep reading a story with an unlikeable main character as long as the other characters are engaging. But if the interactions with other characters are lame then I'm out.

    The other thing to think of as well is that, you can write an unlikeable MC as long as people LOVE to hate them. That's another thing entirely (and I secretly love those books!)