February 26, 2020, 12:51:37 AM

Author Topic: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.  (Read 1176 times)

Offline Eclipse

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I have noticed recently that  some readers give up on a book if the main character is not likeable straight away this means there don’t see the character growth from arsehole to hero , explaining why he acts like an arsehole when we first come across him and miss out on a character arc.

I see quite a few people given up on Captain Frey and the Ketty Jay because the heroes aren’t hero like until you get further into the series.

According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

* Generally those who don't have to do it.Politicians and writers spring to mind

Jonathan Stroud:Ptolmy's Gate

Offline Yora

Re: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2019, 09:07:16 AM »
Protagonists don't need to be likeable at all. They need to be interesting and do things that makes the readers want to know how things keep playing out.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

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Offline Eclipse

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Re: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2019, 09:08:38 AM »
Protagonists don't need to be likeable at all. They need to be interesting and do things that makes the readers want to know how things keep playing out.

I agree with you , it’s a shame that some readers don’t get this. There be missing out on Joe Abercrombie novels for one thing.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2019, 09:19:59 AM by Eclipse »
According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

* Generally those who don't have to do it.Politicians and writers spring to mind

Jonathan Stroud:Ptolmy's Gate

Offline Yora

Re: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2019, 10:29:55 AM »
Well, an unlikable character can still be boring to read.
We are not standing on the shoulders of giants, but on a big tower of other dwarves.

Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

Offline Peat

Re: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2019, 01:09:45 PM »
Likeable? Maybe not. Interesting? Yeah.

I dunno. Actually... yeah, if I don't like *something* about a character pretty quickly, I'm out. Am I going to miss out? Maybe. But whatever I'm going to do, I'm going to miss out on something. If I don't find the character funny, or admirable, or affable, or whatever... reality is I'm not going to enjoy time focused on them. They don't have to be super clean heroic, they can be a bit of a tool, I'm down for a journey, but they've got to be an interesting likeable tool. I like Glokta. Yes, he does horrific things, but he's funny and honest and sharp and has at least some form of principles.

I just put down Red Country because after a few chapters, I thought that Temple was a bit of a boring weasel, and that I couldn't really tell you much about Shy. Is it a shame for me I won't finish this book? Maybe. Personally I think it'd be more of a shame if I read the way others think I should and spent less time enjoying myself.

Offline Matthew

Re: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2019, 01:48:04 PM »
I see quite a few people given up on Captain Frey and the Ketty Jay because the heroes aren’t hero like until you get further into the series.

Love that series. Recommended it to multiple people but the usual response is less "they're jerks" and more "steampunk nah..."

It depends on the reader though, for me a character can be a total monster if they're interesting or at least have a purpose that necessitates that behaviour (Mark Lawrence). What they can't be is a total jerk for no reason, just because that's who they are. I mean they can be that, but it doesn't interest me and while I'll probably finish the book, I doubt I'd bother with the second if there was no development by the end of the first.


Offline Lu Kudzoza

Re: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2019, 04:23:41 PM »
Karsa Orlong is my best example of an unlikable character that has a great story.

Felisin is an example of someone who goes from likable to unlikable.

What makes their stories work is Erikson shows why they are who they are very early in their development. So, even if you don't like them you enjoy reading about them.

@Peat and @Yora make good points though. If you're not enjoying the story don't waste your time because there are too many other books that you will enjoy.

Offline Eclipse

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Re: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2019, 04:30:50 PM »
I just find it odd to me that a reader would give up on a book after only a few chapters because the mc is a jerk. This readers would never give Karsa a go. There want hero characters straight away.

I don’t DNF because a character was unlikeable myself , I dnf over other things each to their own I guess, which there probably find odd to them.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2019, 04:42:43 PM by Eclipse »
According to some,* heroic deaths are admirable things

* Generally those who don't have to do it.Politicians and writers spring to mind

Jonathan Stroud:Ptolmy's Gate

Offline cupiscent

Re: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2019, 12:42:34 AM »
"Likeable" is very subjective. There are characters--there are people--that lots of people like but I can't stand.

There has to be a reason for me to care about a character straightaway. Those reasons are going to vary from person to person, so I think as an author you want to cram as many as possible into a main character. If he's an asshole, you want to balance that out by giving him a heap of other hooks--a fun voice, some high stakes, a more likeable off-sider... something to help out in keeping sympathy and interest.

Personally, I don't know that Captain Frey is likeable, but he was intensely relateable, and very fun to read, and that kept me engaged with him.

Offline Elfy

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Re: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.
« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2019, 12:48:20 AM »
I’m with @cupiscent likeable is very subjective. I know there are characters out there I’ve liked that others haven’t and vice versa. If all the characters are bland and shallow then it’s highly unlikely I’ll enjoy the book.
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Offline isos81

Re: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.
« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2019, 07:49:59 PM »
I don't care about liking, I'll continue to read as long as it is interesting. I also remember that sometime I can switch from liking to disliking (such as Perrin) and vice versa (such as Mat).
Kallor shrugged. 'I've walked this land when the T'lan Imass were but children. I've commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I've spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?'

'Yes' said Caladan Brood. 'You never learn'

Offline Rostum

Re: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.
« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2019, 11:15:43 PM »
I thought the characters in the Ketty Jay books were well developed the author breaking his own rules let the books down.

I agree Interesting trumps likeable. There are plenty of Grimdark MC's who have few likeable traits.

Offline Bender

Re: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2019, 01:34:47 AM »
Hope the antagonist is interesting too. Lots of books suffer from a bad antagonist.
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Offline cupiscent

Re: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2019, 04:11:21 AM »
I agree Interesting trumps likeable. There are plenty of Grimdark MC's who have few likeable traits.

This comment has inspired me to clarify: not just interesting... I need a reason to want to see the character succeed/win/survive/whatever. There are a number of MCs (not solely grimdark, but often) where I would cheer if they died in a ditch, and I don't finish those books any more, regardless of how interesting the world or the character or the plot is.

So maybe this is what the original post is about, but honestly, why would I want to spend my time with someone I intensely dislike? I don't do that in real life, I won't do it in fiction either.

Offline Magnus Hedén

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Re: Do main characters have to be likeable straightaway in this day and age.
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2019, 09:38:41 AM »
I didn't know they had to be likeable at all.  ;D
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