Is a Likeable Main Character Necessary?

I think so because the books that I really enjoy have a main character that I can really respect and like. But everyone likes different things.

For example there are lots of people who really love Fifty Shades of Grey. They love the two main characters Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. They feel that Christian is everything that a romance hero should be: beautiful, strong and compelling. They also love that Anastasia is a woman full of undiscovered sexual depths.

While I can agree with them that I love a handsome hero and that development of a woman’s sexual repertoire can be fun to read about, I personally found Christian and Anastasia off putting.

I did not like the way that Anastasia reacted to Christian in the first scene. She was drawn to him but he also made her ‘uncomfortable’.  To me, uncomfortable is not not a romantic  emotion and it is definitely not sexy.

Then soon after Anastasia drunk dials Christian from a club. It made me think less of her as a person. These very two defining moments in the book enrapture many readers making them identify with the characters, but did nothing for me. In fact those same scenes alienated me.

It’s a sad fact that defining moments in a book are going to either capture your reader or leave them staring at the pages in confusion or outright rage. This is less about the writer and more about the reader. As a writer you need to understand that you can not grab every readers attention, you can only grab those who are susceptible to your writing style.

Making a character is both about remembering to make your characters realistic without forgetting that the more real they are, the more likely that people are going to react to them the way they react to real people. That is to say, by liking them or hating them.

Generally speaking I have a lot of difficulty reading books when the main character is either stupid or a jerk. Every once in awhile an author has managed to create a character that I don’t like that is not so repellent that I can’t finish reading the book. Usually they have a transformation midway through the novel, but its difficult for me to spend quality time with someone that I can’t stand. I never finished Emma for that very reason.

But considering the mountains of books out there with less than stellar main character personalities it really seems to me that many people don’t care if the main hero is likable.  It is in fact not necessary to make your main character likable, only believable. Somewhere out there is the audience you seek.

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2 Responses to Is a Likeable Main Character Necessary?

  1. I think that if your main character isn’t the conventional “good guy” or likeable, there has to be something in him that makes the reader root for them anyway. Sort of like what the writers did on “Breaking Bad”. Walter wasn’t really all that likeable or good, but the viewers were still in his corner rooting for him, Great post

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