There was a discussion recently over in a certain writing forum that I frequent about whether a main character needs to be likable, and of course, the resulting debate was really quite interesting.
We can all point out characters who are grumpy and disagreeable. In some genres, crime for example, this appears to be a prerequisite. And yet as readers we devour these characters and are hungry for more.
Don’t we all just love a good villain? (The number of times I’ve found myself rooting for the bad guy – even though I shouldn’t be.)
Because it’s not all about being likable. These characters are often fascinating – or they touch something deep inside us that we can all relate to. And as a result we can’t help to engage with the surly detective or angst riddled teen. It’s all about empathy.
Now I wish I had some amazing tips to give you at this point – some magic formula that will bring your characters into focus and cause the reader to instantly warm to them, empathise with them and become totally invested in their story.
But I’m afraid I don’t.
And yet it is something so vital. Something we all need to be aware of. And I’m asking myself as I take my new MC or her tortuous journey – will the reader empathise with her enough?