One thing I expect as a parent is to be annoyed on a daily basis. Whining, arguing, spills, bills, boogers, poop, blah, blah, blah. Last night’s annoyance took me on a different tangent, however and back to writing.
My daughter was watching one of her favorite movies: “Pippi Longstocking.” Ugh! This movie kills me with the songs, bad acting, and horrible main character.
I don’t like Pippi. She drives me insane, and I don’t see how my daughter loves her. The secondary characters are boring; the monkey is even annoying. Her father is a jackass who abandons her with only her big arse shoes and dilapidated house. Why isn’t my daughter watching “Annie” or “Anne of Green Gables”: two red headed orphans with a penchant for trouble and a tongue full of sass? Those two are likable and readable.
So Pippi Lamestocking had me thinking about other annoying characters that made it to literature and even a movie. Since I’m on the children's side of things, I’ll continue with The Cat in the Hat. I hate the cat. He’s not funny. He’s annoying. I’ve read this book a few times as a kid and then a couple more when I had my own, and I’ve never loved it. Cute rhyming, sure, but the cat is an ass. I don’t like him. The Grinch was also an ass but we see him change and become likable, we root for the Grinch to love Christmas. The Cat? We want to kick the cat out of the damn house before the fish goes belly up from a heart attack—at least I do. Where's a squirt bottle when you need one?
Next, there’s Isabella Swan. Oh mama, how I hate this character. I admit that I read the books. I actually didn’t mind the story, even tolerated the love or should I say “hunger” for Edward, because I saw the potential for something great with the Italian Vamps and a possible shakedown in the undead world—oh, how you went wrong Ms. Meyer. Anyway, Bella is whiny, mopey, lame, and more lame. Seriously, how much scrambled eggs can a person eat?
I didn’t care about her; didn’t care which beastie she chose to love; didn’t care that she nearly died. Nothing. I just wanted her to grow up somehow, transform into something redeemable. Unfortunately, being a vamp was apparently the only answer because then she gets the best power of them all and becomes the prettiest vamp—LAME!
I didn’t love Twilight but the next book I’m going to talk about I did like—a lot. Hunger Games was an exciting book. Yes, there were some writing issues that I didn’t love, and the final book was a complete waste of time, but I truly liked the story. Katniss, on the other hand, I didn’t care for so much. She is a tough chick, but something about her bothered me. I loved Peeta; I sympathized with Peeta; I wanted the best for him. Katniss . . . I’m not sure. I rooted for her simply because of Peeta. She needed to win, to stay alive for his sake. The story kept me going more than the MC.
I was trying to think of a literary/movie character for adults to compare to and was having a hard time until I remembered Gone with the Wind and Scarlet. She’s a selfish bitch, yet for many of us we can’t wait to see what happens, which somehow makes her likable or at least readable. And, tomorrow, after all, is another day.
So when someone critiques your writing and tells you your MC is unlikeable, don’t just jump on what they have to say. Likeability is different for everyone. Think of Hannibal Lector, is likability the right word? We shouldn’t like him, he is evil, yet we read on because he is dynamic—interesting. Dexter Morgan, same thing. He kills people. Sure, they are also serial killers, but his actions also screw up the lives of innocent people around him—he makes big mistakes. Doakes was a shithead, but he was not a killer. (spoiler) Dexter’s actions lead to his death. All of this aside, Dexter is interesting, complex, and we can’t get enough of him. We turn the page or buy DVDs, because we simply have to know what will happen next in the life of a serial killer with a conscience.
Harry Potter wasn’t a bowl full of excitement. He was average. He succeeded because he had a mess of great characters surrounding him, helping him grow into the great wizard he was born to be. By himself, Harry wouldn’t have grabbed me (oops, sounds a bit pervy). But add in the twins, Hagrid, Luna, and the rest and we have interesting and dynamic personalities that keep us going.
What characters have you found unlikable? And, what makes a character likeable to you? Have you ever been told your MC is unlikeable? Did you agree? Talk to me.