Tag Archives: Jonathan L. Howard

Why you don’t like not liking characters

A couple of weeks ago, Dan Swensen posted a brief essay on Surly Muse dealing with one of my favorite topics: the unlikable protagonist.  Broadly speaking, I agree with almost everything Dan says on the subject.  Does a character have to be “likable” or sympathetic?  Absolutely not.  World literature is laden with characters of dubious morals and repellent personalities who are nonetheless rich, rewarding fictional constructions.  However, I have to admit (as nearly everyone will) that, even though I know in my head that a character doesn’t have to be likable in order to be a great character, there are easily dozens, if not hundreds, of stories that I don’t really like very much.  Why?  Obviously: I didn’t like the characters.  The key issue raised by our premise, then, isn’t if characters have to be likable, but why unlikable characters work in some stories and not in others. Continue reading


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