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Writing > When is a protagonist too unlikable?

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message 1: by Samantha The Escapist (last edited Dec 20, 2012 12:51PM) (new)

Samantha The Escapist (greatescapist) | 81 comments I have a character who is going to be quite flawed (mean, rude, grumpy, prideful, reckless, difficult to reason with, crass and impulsive) and her only redeeming qualities at the start would be "badassery", shrewdness and a fierce protectiveness of her family. There is also going to be the slow reveal of a pretty sympathetic back story (told from her perspective) but she's going to be very aggressive and slightly unhinged for a good chunk of the novel - her arc obviously involves her stabilizing.

If half of a novel you were reading was spent inside this character's head (the other half being in her sister's head - she's much nicer) would you find it intolerable? How bad would it have to be before you put the book down?


message 2: by sucre'd fiend (new)

sucre'd fiend (sucredfiend) | 39 comments I would indeed find it intolerable. A few flaws is okay- we all have some- but there a "too much" for flaws.


Samantha The Escapist (greatescapist) | 81 comments Thanks for your answer, I tend to dislike protagonists who don't have enough flaws but I've seen many reviews of books I've read where people found characters intolerable like Katniss Everdeen or Ron Weasley and often these are my favourite characters.


message 4: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarah1324) | 328 comments Katniss Everdeen is my favorite character in any book I've ever read. I think that the character you describe sounds like a character I might enjoy, although you may want to tone down the rudeness a smidge. I often find flawless characters annoying because they are perfect, which is not realistic at all. Mean characters can often irritate me as well but if they stabilize and turn out to be nice over time, then I tend to enjoy the story. As long as the transition isn't all cheesy and unrealistic and completely sudden instead of gradual I think you have a good character.


Samantha The Escapist (greatescapist) | 81 comments The rude character has pretty good reason to be resentful toward her sister (the other character) who is mostly likable in her perspective because she feels shame for what her sister was put through. The book is going to span their re-connection as siblings.

The unlikable character is, essentially going to be somewhat animalistic; wild. Most of her lashing out will be more as if she's feeling cornered or threatened (even though that usually isn't the case.)


message 6: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarah1324) | 328 comments I think you have a good idea for this story!


message 7: by Hermit (new)

Hermit    (the_hermit) | 1 comments Good characters are realistic. I probably wouldn't like a character that has no flaws because that character would be too unrealistic. So to answer the thread, a protagonist is too unlikable when they are unrealistic.

There is nothing in your rude character that should make me not like her except the "unreasonable" part. I think the rudeness should be justified; that's the most important part. The sickest, vilest character can be likable if you make the reader understand the reasoning behind their behavior.


message 8: by Samantha The Escapist (last edited Dec 20, 2012 01:01PM) (new)

Samantha The Escapist (greatescapist) | 81 comments I guess unreasonable is more that she's difficult to reason with (edited in the original post) which is to say her that she's slow to calm, doesn't always react to people. Sorry to keep lurking my own topic and overexplaining, I am still interested in what sort of traits or problems will make someone abandon a book due to its protagonist.


message 9: by Just Joe (new)

Just Joe (justjoe) Well, me being me i feel i woukd quite like your character :). To me all the flaws are realistic and reasonable depending upon her past. People cant just be born angry, something had to have happened. But with the bad there must be a good. It could be anything, dont make her all bad. She has to have a weakness, something people can relate to a little. Then i feel you have a very entertaining and interesting character :) dont do something everyone will expect is my advice ;)


message 10: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarah1324) | 328 comments I honestly cannot wait to see this story. Do you plan on posting it here?


message 11: by Samantha The Escapist (last edited Dec 20, 2012 07:33PM) (new)

Samantha The Escapist (greatescapist) | 81 comments ideally i'd be getting it published lol so putting it online might be the wrong approach. but i'll be happy to let you read a bunch of the material when I get it written :D

I'm also in the new group IRC chat most of the time lately waiting for people to join me for brainstorms .


message 12: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sarah1324) | 328 comments You're probably right. Good luck!


message 13: by ℂᖺαᖇᒪἷ℮ ⊰1017 &Tardis⊱, This is my witty title (head mod) (new)

ℂᖺαᖇᒪἷ℮ ⊰1017 &Tardis⊱ (charlie_awesome) | 766 comments Mod
In the book Gone Girl, the protagonist, I HATE HIM. But I love the book.


message 14: by Cassandra (new)

Cassandra (cassandraa) | 4 comments Little flaws are tolerable...insurmountable, however is a big no no. Unless of course theres someone or something that complements her eg. Katniss with Peeta or a redeeming quality that overpowers all of it.

Sometimes a too rude character can be pretty annoying... I know I find it difficult to like some characters who are just clearly intolerable.

My two cents :)


message 15: by Jane (new)

Jane (smallinabigworld) | 31 comments I really don't like it if the/one of the main characters are really stuck up, unless they use it as a humorous topic, kind of like how Jace acts in the mortal instruments series.


message 16: by Rinasa1234 (new)

Rinasa1234 I can't stand it when the protagonist is completely perfect, cliche, and is the big shot hero who seems to be invincible.


message 17: by Rinasa1234 (new)

Rinasa1234 Yep!


message 18: by Carrie (new)

Carrie P (ilavalavamylibrary) Samantha The Escapist wrote: "Thanks for your answer, I tend to dislike protagonists who don't have enough flaws but I've seen many reviews of books I've read where people found characters intolerable like Katniss Everdeen or R..."

I love both Katniss & Ron so I would probably like your character. Flawed is real. That being said, I didn't much care for any of the unlikeable protagonists in JK Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy": I love her as an author & love her whole Harry Potter series but her adult book was way too depressing for my tastes, even though I'll still read whatever she writes. As for flawed protagonists, one of my favorites is Harry Hole of Jo Nesbo's Nordic series. He is a dark, despairing, drunk detective but is otherwise brilliant!


message 19: by Finley (new)

Finley Mac | 32 comments It's very easy to make a character unlikeable by adding too many flaws to "make them seem more real". Like, a character that is too flawed will be scarred, have a disturbing past, be insane, probably bipolar or depressed, arrogantly smart, and overall just add to their Mary Sue points.
If I put the character I just described through the Mary Sue test, he/she gets 56, making her an Über-Sue.


Samantha The Escapist (greatescapist) | 81 comments Took the test, pleased to say she is a Non-sue :D


message 21: by Leah (new)

Leah | 64 comments Flaws are simply human, and therefore necessary to the development of the character. However, sometimes I think that the author overdoes it (case in point: Bella Swan). I don't mind a character with a few flaws though. :)


❄️ Propertea Of Frostea ❄️ Bitter SnoBerry ❄ (berrynumey) Well take the case of Percy Jackson for flaws, but he's still the hero ;)


❄️ Propertea Of Frostea ❄️ Bitter SnoBerry ❄ (berrynumey) Lol, I know THAT but he's been "kicked-out-of-school" a lot of times, and yeah, that's also because of the monsters :\


message 26: by Samantha The Escapist (last edited Dec 26, 2012 04:29AM) (new)

Samantha The Escapist (greatescapist) | 81 comments Okay so since this topic wasn't necessarily supposed to be exclusively about my character, lets shift gears. Name a character you've read who was too flawed and explain why you didn't like them as a result.

Then if you are willing name a character with flaws who you DID like - but you need to explain the flaws and why they were likeable, just like explaining why the other flaws were un-likeable.

I'm curious which things people can't get over and how everyone's opinion differs on what flawed actually means.



message 27: by Finley (new)

Finley Mac | 32 comments Kggelen wrote: "HE HAS NO FLAWS!!!!! PERCY JACKSON IS PERFECT!!!! Except for the whole, being too loyal thing, but that doesn't really count..."

"Being too loyal" is not a flaw.

IT IS NOT A FLAW DO YOU HEAR ME AUTHORS

DO YOU FREAKING HEAR ME


message 28: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle (gabshi) I think that your character maybe needs to have a soft spot for something.


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