Should your protagonist be likable?

Evelyn M. Hill’s blog post struck home with me. While part of me resists the conventional wisdom that your protagonist be likeable (or at least respect-worthy), the fact remains that if you totally loathe a main character, it’s hard to want to keep reading. But some famous classics have awful protagonists and people read (and love) them.

So how do authors pull it off?

This is not a rhetorical question. The main character in my as-yet-unpublished novel Escaping Andronicus is decidedly unlikable. She detests her children and is having an affair with a married man. She’s a spoiled dilettante. She does find herself in jeopardy (one of the ways to make a character interesting), but not until midway into the book. But she gets better <insert obligatory Monty Pythonesque accent here>! She has a positive character arc. But it seems like I need to make her more sympathetic, or no-one will want to read the book. Or does she just need to be so compelling that readers love to hate her?

What would you do, dear readers? Re-write her to be more likeable or hold onto the initial character concept?

One flaw in many books is that even though the writing is good, the hero or heroine is a person that I would not want to spend five minutes with in real life. It’s rare for me to start a book and not finish it (DNF), but when I do that’s generally the reason. I’m […]

via Novel elements: characters you want to spend a whole book with — Evelyn M. Hill

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