How important is likeability?

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Ermo
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How important is likeability?

Post by Ermo » January 11th, 2010, 10:25 pm

My protagonist in my current project is not exactly charming, in fact, he's downright unlikeable at times. He's eccentric, a bit quirky, and I feel that as the story grows, you grow to like him more. Think Melvin Udall in As Good as It Gets. My question is - will this fact hurt the eventual chances for publication because agents/publishers will never get far into the novel to grow to like him?

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: How important is likeability?

Post by Nathan Bransford » January 11th, 2010, 11:45 pm

To me it's a difference between a character being sympathetic and unsympathetic: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/02 ... cters.html

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Seamus
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Re: How important is likeability?

Post by Seamus » January 12th, 2010, 9:25 am

Sympathy can grow as the character develops, though. If you look at Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, a Pulitzer Prize winner and by all accounts a success, her main character fits into the description of yours. As the reader views Olive through the course of a few years, she is downright unlikeable in the first chapter and oddly endearing in the last because of what you and she have grown to understand. I think, in fact, it is this dynamic that is one of the great strengths of the book.
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Ermo
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Re: How important is likeability?

Post by Ermo » January 12th, 2010, 3:15 pm

Thanks Nathan and Seamus!

jkmcdonnell
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Re: How important is likeability?

Post by jkmcdonnell » January 16th, 2010, 10:44 am

Think Holden Caufield. Sometimes I loved him, other times I wanted to smack him around the red hunting hat.

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shadow
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Re: How important is likeability?

Post by shadow » January 17th, 2010, 3:37 pm

well my character is a warrior who was brought up to kill. The circumstances make him likeable though. So you see what I mean by that?
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lexcade
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Re: How important is likeability?

Post by lexcade » January 17th, 2010, 3:40 pm

my favorite anti-hero is Lestat from Anne Rice's novels. in Interview with the Vampire, he's such a jackass, but there's something about him that draws you in. Then, when you read his story, you understand why. Makes the first book a whole new experience....

or you could think about Kratos from the god of war series (geek alert, right?). he's a badass killing machine, and he's an asshole, but the reasons for his bloodthirsty revenge quest are actually good ones... granted, since you have to play as him, it's important that you like him...

i'll stop now.
"Art imitates nature as well as it can, as a pupil follows his master; thus it is sort of a grandchild of God." ~~Dante

Fallen
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Re: How important is likeability?

Post by Fallen » January 17th, 2010, 4:42 pm

Nathan Bransford wrote:To me it's a difference between a character being sympathetic and unsympathetic: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/02 ... cters.html
I've just read the blog and Lord Foul's Bane comes to mind here. The MC raped a woman and spent most of the book angsting over it. Sorry but I kept thinking 'Well, you shouldn't have done it in the first place, mate.'. It touched the taboo in so many wrong ways and, to be honest, all I was rooting for was 'the end'.

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Re: How important is likeability?

Post by stevenchasey » January 17th, 2010, 6:06 pm

I think we all have a bit of a fascination with the anti-hero. The trick in drawing a reader in is to tap into what it is that draws us to these types of people. Morbid fascination? Desire to actually act that way? Etc. If you can tap into that subliminal urge, we'll keep on reading no matter how sinister a character gets. My favorite author for this technique is Dostoevsky.

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