My Friend Hope Vestergaard

My friend Hope brought up a lot of thoughts for me in her comment on my The Gospel According To Larry entry. I made a brief comment on disliking a main character (MC). Thing is, though I hadn’t realized it before, I enjoy disliking a MC (not in every book I read, of course). It makes a great tug-of-war kind of tension in the story. But at some point I hope to like the character or at least admire him/her for some kind of growth or goal they’ve accomplished.

I haven’t thought about this before, but it strikes me that the things Larry did were true to the character’s personality, but without thought of how he would hurt – no, destroy – those who loved him. Yes, it was very self-involved, as are a whole lot of 17-year-olds. But it didn’t make me like him very much. I’m trying to remember how/if he grew at all. Do you think he did? Do antiheroes grow? Is Larry an antihero? (I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. It happens a LOT).

Maybe there needs to be more of an internal struggle for an unlikable character, so we can see s/he’s not just a selfish sod. If the mc comes to the resolution of whatever his difficulties are too quickly, maybe some build up would help ratchet up the tension? Or perhaps there is more than one thing he needs to come to terms with. I do NOT think we as readers need to like every mc, but I do think there needs to be some kind of connection, or fascination with a character, don’t you?

What makes a flawed character compelling? Of course the flaws do, but most characters need to have those flaws in order to feel even close to real. Look at evil characters in adult novels like The Vampire Lestat or the monster of a man in Red Dragon. While we fear and loathe these characters, the reader feels empathy for them, too. There is a morbid fascination, definitely, but also something compelling about the desire to behave well, and the character’s compulsion for bad deeds.

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