Do You Need To Like Your Characters?

By on March 18, 2021

When writing our stories we often find that we end up falling in love with our characters. We spend so much time carrying them about in our heads, we know them inside out, and we are so invested in their journey that often it can be hard to let them go when we finally reach the end.

However, writing an engaging cast of characters isn’t always about liking them. While lots of advice states that you must write what you know, or ensure that your character is relatable, there are some instances where this isn’t true. If you are writing about a monstrous villain without a sympathetic or empathetic bone in their body, you don’t need to necessarily relate to that. You certainly don’t need to like that!

Liking your characters is of course helpful in lots of instances. The more we care about them, the more we’ll want to get to know them, and the more effort we will put into making sure our readers feel a closeness to them too. Caring about the characters is an important part of enjoying the book. If you don’t, know matter how riveting the story, it can be challenging to care what happens.

Again, this is not necessary 100% of the time. In fact, there are lots of famous books where the protagonist is thoroughly unlikeable. Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorain Grey is a good example, as is Valadimir Nabokov’s Lolita - there are lots more.

So if your characters don’t have to be likeable, what should you focus on when trying to develop your cast of characters?

Engaging

Like ‘em or hate ‘em your character must be engaging. An engaging character is attractive in some way. They will hold attention. 

Exciting

Your characters must excite your readers. They can be foul, irresponsible, and downright wicked, but if they don’t get your readers pulse racing in some way, if they don’t rouse them, then they won’t be worth reading about at all.

Unique

Your characters must be unique. They must have personalities that make them stand out and quirks and idiosyncrasies that make them memorable. They mustn’t be carbon copies of one another or stolen from another writer’s work.

On A Journey

Your characters must be on some sort of journey. That journey can lead them to unimaginable riches, inner peace or their terrible demise - just make sure that they are in fact going somewhere. 

As you can see, there are many instances where liking your characters can be helpful. It is safe to say that most authors do write characters that are likeable, and that they themselves, like. However, this is not a necessity when it comes to write a good book, and in fact, writing a story with an unlikeable character at the helm can be extremely enjoyable indeed!

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