Bisky's Twitterling's Scribbles! discussion

53 views
Books/Characters > What if your main character started off as a jerk?

Comments Showing 1-25 of 25 (25 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Natasha (new)

Natasha Ahmed (natashaahmed) | 37 comments So I'm on a second book and I've had some feedback on the first impressions of my lead character. He's a dick, or comes across as one, but he's going to grow/change over the course of the story. Would you read on if you didn't like the hero of a book in the beginning?

Do all characters have to be angels for a person to read beyond page 1?


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I love when characters evolve! I think that if they're all angels, as you say, they're not realistic and the story gets boring.

That might be the reason I love villains so much! xD

I also like ambivalent characters. Something like being a jerk, but also weirdly nice sometimes.


message 3: by Bisky (new)

Bisky Scribbles (bisky_scribbles) | 2536 comments Mod
I'm a sucker for a good anti-hero. As Sandrine said, I love when characters evolve. It adds complexity to the plot :]


message 4: by Naomi (new)

Naomi (azure-oblivion) | 1 comments I think it's good to keep characters human. We can all be jerks in some aspect or another throughout life. Jealousy, anger, pet hates, lets face it, none of us are perfect!

I'm currently writing a book in which my main character is a bastard, he cheats on his girlfriend and yes, he feels bad about it, but he doesn't necessarily learn his lesson, at least not right away. Meanwhile, because he feels guilty he paints his girlfriend as an innocent victim, but later on the reader learns that she's not necessarily as sweet and perfect as he makes her out to be. She's actually quite a jealous and bitter person. I also worry sometimes that if readers don't like the main character that they won't read on, but personally I find myself getting sick of perfect characters. I admire authors who write honestly, rather than trying to please the reader. So I wouldn't worry if your main character is a jerk :)


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

the above 3 comments pretty much cover it.

you can consider further, if you're not satisfied with the above, by identifying your audience. i love lee child and (the first maybe '10') patterson books. i've devoured most of them. their characters are paper thin. i also love sophie's choice (william styron) and the tempest (shakespeare's 'last' play) for the density of their characters. light reading and complex reading appeal to different audiences; sometimes to the same person at different times. so, my 2 cents: first decide which audience you're favoring, then slant toward them.

specific to your question, i would read on, assuming the story provoked me to do so. in a sciFi novel i've yet to release, my mc is paper-thin, partly so that his foil can lambaste him without his ever being clear that she's far smarter than he is. the contrast of personalities offers a portage to humor, which i unabashedly exploit.

tuh MAY to. TO mah to.


message 6: by Karey (new)

Karey One of my main characters is SERIOUSLY chauvinistic. But through the love of another, you begin to see, he's chauvinistic because of the realm he's been raised in, and he continues to BE chauvinistic, but the heroine is quite capable of bringing about a side of him that belongs to only her. And where he's chauvinistic almost to a fault, she's equally sarcastic. So, they evolve BECAUSE of each other, but these 'faults' are also how they balance.
Okay--I hope this makes sense.


message 7: by Natasha (new)

Natasha Ahmed (natashaahmed) | 37 comments That's good to know! I submitted my first page to a forum for feedback, and because the hero refers to the heroine as an 'elitist bitch', quite a few people said they wouldn't read on. Apparently, the use of the word 'bitch' is unacceptable.

Completely reminded me of this woman who's trying to get the word 'bossy' outlawed when referring to women.


message 8: by Natasha (new)

Natasha Ahmed (natashaahmed) | 37 comments Bisky wrote: "I'm a sucker for a good anti-hero. As Sandrine said, I love when characters evolve. It adds complexity to the plot :]"

That's my preference too.

Karey wrote: "And where he's chauvinistic almost to a fault, she's equally sarcastic. So, they evolve BECAUSE of each other, but these 'faults' are also how they balance."

And that sounds like something I would really enjoy reading.

I recently finished Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith, in which the lead character is a KGB/MGB investigator who's committed unspeakable horrors under Stalin's rule. By the end of the book, I was rooting for him, though.


message 9: by David (new)

David Grindberg | 28 comments people are icebergs. so much of what they are hovers beneath the surface. if the guy's a jersey, what's brought him to that place. I'd like to know what's beneath the water line.


message 10: by David (new)

David Grindberg | 28 comments oops. that's supposed to be jerk, not jersey...my phone likes to fix me even when I don't need fixing ;)


message 11: by Natasha (new)

Natasha Ahmed (natashaahmed) | 37 comments David wrote: "people are icebergs. so much of what they are hovers beneath the surface. if the guy's a jersey, what's brought him to that place. I'd like to know what's beneath the water line."

:) Jerk. Got it. And thank you, all of you. Forums are a great place for generating self-doubt and low self-esteem. Feeling much better already.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Natasha wrote: "That's good to know! I submitted my first page to a forum for feedback, and because the hero refers to the heroine as an 'elitist bitch', quite a few people said they wouldn't read on. Apparently, ..."

I think the word "bitch" is acceptable, but it depends on the genre of the book and the audience it is destined to.

And I agree with Naomi; you should write the way you like rather than the way you think readers will like. If your character is realistic, with his faults and qualities, with his hopes and fears, and so on, I don't think your readers would put the book down only because they're not fond of the protagonist's personality.

I read a book once called in French "Chroniques du Monde Emergé". In that story, the main character is an immature, selfish and stubborn girl. I hated her from the first page. Yet I liked the other characters and the intrigue was good, so I read on.

In short, what I'm trying to say is that your character is not the only reason your story is good (or bad). There are other things (such as setting, descriptions, or suspense) which will make your readers cling to the book.


message 13: by Bisky (last edited Apr 26, 2014 05:44PM) (new)

Bisky Scribbles (bisky_scribbles) | 2536 comments Mod
Bisky shall wade in at this point.

While Bitch is perfectly acceptable to a European audience, the United States is much more sensitive to harsher words. Due to mostly cultural differences.

Of course, try not to censor your work, however it is good to remember that your reach could be lessned by misunderstandings towards certain themes. Therefore, I would consider the language used, as we are -self-published- as we are, in effect, representing ourselves. (Not saying that we represent anything bad, but it is sometimes, in effect, us -against the world- :p)

Of course, I invite our US forum members to put there opinion in here :] But that is just how I feel.


message 14: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 1053 comments Mod
Every time I see bitch I remember the first time I watched a dog show. I was like OH MY GOSH! Until I finally woke up and realized that they were just using the right word for the dog.

Disclaimer: It only shocked me because it was on television and I was wondering what the poor pooch had done to the host of the show to be called a bitch. :P

I don't mind at all when I read it somewhere. Most of the time I see it coming anyway.

(OK, if you don't know it by now, my fist language is not English so please bear with me. I'm not THAT stupid. Just sometimes I am...) :P


message 15: by Dionne (new)

Dionne | 68 comments Heh one of my stories in the beginning I start out with my antag who's a pretty nice guy. Turns evil though. And yet another character just wants to be left alone. She's pretty mean. Makes a reader want to root for the bad guy over the good. lol

I do that some time. Flip things around. Turn the reader on their ears, that sort of thing. It's kinda fun once in a while.


message 16: by M (new)

M Mallon (kyrosmagica) | 26 comments @Dionne. I agree. I think it is a good idea to play with characters a bit, make them have a side that others can't see straight away, a hidden aspect to them. Makes for interesting reading. Well that's what I have tried to do in my novel.


message 17: by J. David (new)

J. David Clarke (clarketacular) | 418 comments At least one of the main characters in my series seems to be a real jersey (heh), and several of them have severe personality problems, but as you go along you find out more about them, what brought them to that place and where they're going. Personally I like characters that have layers and depth to them, and a good character arc of change.


message 18: by Keair (new)

Keair Snyder | 17 comments Natasha wrote: "So I'm on a second book and I've had some feedback on the first impressions of my lead character. He's a dick, or comes across as one, but he's going to grow/change over the course of the story. Wo..."

I definitely do not believe that all characters have to start out as angels. I think that it is more interesting to watch a character grow, either developing past being "dicks" to being good guys or being warped and twisted into being a jerk when he/she was once a good guy/woman. The transformation is interesting to read and it's interesting to write as well. :)


message 19: by Natasha (new)

Natasha Ahmed (natashaahmed) | 37 comments Keair wrote: "The transformation is interesting to read and it's interesting to write as well. :) "

So much more interesting to write, Keair. They have all the best lines. Like Logan from Veronica Mars. They completely ruined his character in the movie because he was a boring angel.


message 20: by David (new)

David (1800dave) | 3 comments Mine is, and that's fine. I'd sooner someone hate it for the right reasons than like it for the wrong ones.


message 21: by Samantha (last edited Jul 14, 2014 07:35AM) (new)

Samantha Strong (samanthalstrong) | 206 comments I've been lurking in a lot of these threads for awhile, haha. I didn't realize this first one was posted way back a few months ago. But I kept meaning to say ...

Like it or not, first impressions are important. There are two separate questions here: Can my character be a jerk and still carry the story? The answer, as others have weighed in and with which I agree, is yes, of course. Now, you need to have to weave in reasons for the reader to like him. If he's just an arrogant idiot, no one's going to want to hear his story. But if he's an arrogant idiot who's really funny or has a secret soft spot for nursing kittens back to health or is incredibly intelligent/clever, people will stick around because it's intriguing.

However, the other question of whether your first impression has to be good ... Well, it's the same thing. If main character walks on stage and yells a racial epithet at a small girl, I doubt I'd read on. Later, you might discover that a small girl of that race killed his mother and thus it's understandable that he would hate them (or whatever, I'm totally making this up, obviously), but I really, really don't care. Really. If I had met him in real life, I would immediately decide he is someone to stay away from. First impressions are hard to change.

So that's my two cents. "Bitch" comes across, in this culture, as misogynistic. Page 1? I probably wouldn't use it. Page 80, after we've gotten to know him? That works.


message 22: by Devrie (new)

Devrie Spaulding | 13 comments Love this post. Thanks for sharing it.


message 23: by Shannon (new)

Shannon Pemrick I love characters that evolve and I don't mind a jerkish MC as long as they change throughout the book. If they don't change, then I put the book down. I can only stand a non changing jerk character if they're a support/side character.

My MC in my trilogy is a hit or miss if you like her in the beginning but as the story progresses I've found readers liking her more (no matter if they liked her in the beginning or not) and enjoying her change and wanting that to continue, much to my enjoyment.


message 24: by Bisky (last edited Jul 27, 2014 09:28AM) (new)

Bisky Scribbles (bisky_scribbles) | 2536 comments Mod
I kind of like when characters are alittle bit evil :p


message 25: by Ron (new)

Ron Scheer | 27 comments Is anyone familiar with Jonathan Stroud's Baretimius trilogy. The main character starts off ok then becomes a major pain that you absolutely love to hate. I don't want to give any spoilers here, but its a really good example of unconventional character building. Stroud does this so flawlessly that the reader is simply along for the ride.


back to top