Sunday, July 21, 2013

Characters – Love Them or Hate Them?

Characters are people. Often they are based on real people. I know mine started that way. But then they develop a life of their own. They have distinctive physical features – blue eyes, curly hair, scars, tall, short, thin, obese, tattoos, dark skin, freckles and anything else you can think of. They could have a limp, a lisp, a stutter, habitual blushing – the list goes on. But whatever the combination, it’s unique. The same way you are unique.
Why do we like some and not others?
The same reason you like some people and not others – there’s always something that appeals to you about someone – their kindness, their passion, their determination, their loyalty, courage, humor. The things you like about other people are also the things you like about a character.
The main thing about a character, though, is that in a book, they have an obstacle, a quest or a dream they want to overcome or reach. Hence, they are often put in situations where their integrity or spirit is challenged. They must make decisions that you may or may not agree with, but which you want to understand. For me, I have to be rooting for a character – wanting them to succeed, or do the right thing, or fall in love with the right person. I guess I want to feel their hope and success.
But like people, characters always have a flaw that holds them back – whether it’s greed, self-doubt, a fear or naivety – something that constantly interferes with their quest. But that’s what makes them real. For me as a writer, my greatest challenge is to make people lovable even when they screw up – you want to forgive them and hope they’ll get it right the next time.
But even the unlikeable characters – the ‘baddies’, should have a redeeming quality or a reason for their cruelty. I may not want them to succeed but I always want to at least understand how they got there.
When I read or when I write, I want to be part of that character’s life – engross myself in their quest or their challenges and go through it with them. If I can understand, forgive and love the character all at once, then it feels that they are truly a part of my life.
Thank you so much to author, Kathy Petrakis for sharing her thoughts on characters!
Kathy Petrakis was born and raised in Sydney Australia by Greek immigrant parents. She always had a passion for the performing arts - dancing, acting and singing but they were hobbies giving way to a traditional professional career in banking. Before this book, her writing was used to entertain friends with her unusual, and often disastrous travel adventures from around the world.
By the hand of fate, Passion and Pain and Bittersweet were born while living in London, heaven for lovers of the performing arts. After launching Passion and Pain, she returned to Sydney for the launch of the sequel, Bittersweet.
Find her on Twitter   Facebook   Website   Goodreads

My Two Cents:
I have always felt that if a character is able to make you ‘feel’, the author has succeeded. This feeling does not necessarily have to be a positive one. There have many instances where I have read books where the protagonist is broken, self-centered, irrational and downright mean but that hasn't stopped me from loving these books. Because these ‘un-like-able’ characters make you feel. On the other hand, a bland and unreal character is a huge fail because the only emotion these characters evoke are irritation!
Here are a few posts I found around the blogosphere that touch on similar topics:
Melissa Walker on Writing True Characters (Versus Writing "Likeable" Characters)
Author, Courtney Summers talks about unlikeable female protagonists. She also takes it a step further in if you’re never sorry.
The bloggers at Dear Author talk about Loving the Unlikeable Heroine
You might also want to take a look at the list of books with challenging characters that the awesome bloggers at Clear Eyes, Full Shelves put together.
P.S.-I personally recommend all books by Courtney Summers!
So tell us, how would you define a character? 
What are you reasons for liking/disliking them?


  1. Great post! And you are so right about the characters. Thanks for the links, I'll definitely check them out. I read "This is not a test" by Courtney Summers and loved this book. I'll be checking out there books as well.

    1. I believe that characters, like real people, need to have flaws. I dislike characters portrayed as perfect. Give them a quirk, addiction, anything that will make me emphathize with them. And if the character is unlikeable, add a quality that will redeem her.

  2. Very interesting. I have to feel a connection to a character to enjoy a book. And I don't mind if they make bad decisions as like the post says, it makes them feel real. Who hasn't made bad decisions. If characters are too perfect, it never works for me as they feel false and wooden.

  3. Awesome post! I need to have a reaction to the characters, not necessarily have to sympathise with them tho, Nothing worse than feeling indifferent to the characters

  4. Thanks for the shout-out to my post about challenging characters! I think it's really interesting what characters resonate and what ones don't. Courtney Summers is one author whose characters aren't necessarily people I want to hang out with, but their stories are so compelling...

  5. Great post Rach, Nuz! I can totally relate :D

    Jules of Jules Bookshelf


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