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Dislikable characters being popular?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Darkfantasy, Oct 21, 2019.

  1. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    Grey characters certainly seem to be in. What seems to me to be less common, though it can be done well, is the use of a thoroughly unlikeable, irredeemable character as the protagonist. I don't have to like any aspect of a character to be interested in that character. I'm not sure that's a common view, though.
  2. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

    To be honest, I think it's just a case of the simple reality that different people are draw to different kinds of people/characters for different reasons and you just can't predict it. An author may design a character to be unlikable based on their own tastes/point of view but that doesn't mean that your readers will feel the same way.

    Recent example: I play Final Fantasy 14 and we just had a new expansion that gave a new character a huge amount of development. When first introduced he is almost clownishly over-dramatic with really exaggerated, melodramatic facial expressions. The head of the design team of the game said in interviews that he was specifically not designed to be attractive. He is most definitely a villain, if a villain that you are supposed to come to understand better over the course of the story. Suffice it to say, the game devs where completely taken by surprise at him immense popularity with the players. Not just for the story told with him involved (which was the best story I've ever experienced in a video game in my life) but because of just his personality and everything. There's so much fan art and fanfic of him it's ridiculous. In an expansion with a ton of incredible characters and great storytelling he was high and away the biggest hit and they didn't expect it.

    I think when it comes to authors it's just one of those things you have to accept. You can't say "but you've got this character all wrong, you're not supposed to like him!" You have to accept that you created something that means something more to your readers than you intended.
    Firefly likes this.
  3. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    I actually saw a meme about this phenomenon the other day. It was pretty rude so I won't share it here, but it was also hilarious and I couldn't stop laughing about it. Once you release a work you lose all control over it. To loosely quote Joss Whedon, your art isn't your property. It's your kid. And once it gets out into the world it's going to take on a life of its own and be interpreted in all sorts of ways that you may or may not have been intended.
    CupofJoe and skip.knox like this.
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I agree with A. E. LowanA. E. Lowan (and Joss Whedon) on this. It's one reason why I still don't entirely buy the proposition that an author has to write for a certain audience. I as author will *never* know my audience. Not even the twelve who currently read my work! And I certainly can never know how they are understanding what I write.

    I learned this from 35 years of teaching. I would say things in class, the students would take conscientious notes, yet what I got back in essays was sometimes strangely garbled. And this is from history lectures where there's very little nuance. I can but speak (or write). I can't make people listen and still less can I make them see the story the way I do. All I can do is please myself (and my editor), then release the darling into the wild.
    A. E. Lowan likes this.
  5. Alora pendrak

    Alora pendrak Scribe

    For me its becuse likeible characters often don't feel authentic they have these fixible little flaws that are more like quirks and often times they get everything handed to them becuse people like them in narrative. Dislikeible characters usually have a harder time pushing though and when they do its with far less resources/help then the likeible characters but on the other hand sometimes creators write anti heroes that are so vile i cann't believe their not the bad guy and find it annoying how their never called out for say blowing up the orphanage becuse it was for the greatest good/ he had a sad past so of course its justified ugh! I hate protagonist centered morality and how fandom's generally always take the pov characters side. And i like Likeible characters where the point of the character is keeping a lid on their more negative tendencies and fighting dispite hardship. So it just depends on the writeing for me.

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