I Love You, But Right Now I Hate Your Guts

openclipart - realistic green pencilHave you ever had that feeling? Someone you love dearly (sibling, parent or significant other) pisses you off so damn much that you want to poke them in the eye with a stubby pencil? If you say you haven’t, I won’t believe you. :p

I certainly have. In fact, I said this to my ex (or something very similar) during one of our fights (not that we had many, by the way, but when we did, we really did). He looked at me like I’d grown six extra heads. He just didn’t get it. And nothing I said could make him understand.

I didn’t – and still don’t – see what’s so hard about the concept. You can’t like somebody all the time, no matter how much you love them. It’s not possible. Sometimes they upset you or hurt you, or disappoint you. It isn’t all sunshine and roses, no matter who it is.

openclipart - butterflyThis has come up because I’m remembering some of the comments from a critique I received of SORB’s opening chapter. One of the comments was that Ileandra was not a very likeable character. I put the critique to one side and left it, allowing the comments to simmer in my mind. My back brain is getting very good at working on things while my front brain counts nappies, wipes up runny poo and keeps track of which of my boys tried to eat the squashed butterfly he found under the rug.

Today, I finally let my back brain talk to my front brain so they could discuss the comments I received. I’ve not been through all of them yet, but this comment stuck out for me like… well like a big sticky-out thing.

Ileandra isn’t likeable.

I bloody well hope not! I went through a lot of trouble while rewriting to ensure that in the opening chapters of the book Ileandra is seen as petty, shallow and self-centred.

Why? Because I don’t believe that every main character should be likeable. They should be interesting and you should be able to relate to them, but likeable? That’s not essential.

open clip art - little stick manSteerpike from Mervyn Peake’s Gormanghast certainly isn’t a likeable character, but he is one of, if not the main character of the first two books in the trilogy (look it up if you haven’t read it; they are amazing books). His exploits throughout the story are a terrible blend of tragic, horrific and downright savage, but he is the main character. And he holds my attention. He is interesting. I can relate to him on some level because, despite being utterly maniacal, he’s not a cardboard cut-out. He has thoughts and feelings that make sense and that can produce empathy in a reader. They certainly did in me. But I didn’t like him.

With Ileandra, the effect I’m looking for is slightly different. I want her to be a character that you understand, but dislike. I want the reader to want her to struggle, because, for the most part she deserves it. She floats through half the story getting her own way, having a whale of a time until, with a snap, it all gets very real. She is forced to change. Fast. She has to let go of the selfishness, growth some depth and make sacrifices just to survive. I want her to go on a full journey and earn your like. If, by the end of SORB, you still don’t like her, then there are two more books for her to win you over. I want her to really work for it because there are, to my mind, too many characters that are cute and fluffy and kind and gentle and winsome. And I’m bored of it. I’m tired of reading about them. I want to read about someone forcibly taught that life is hard and that to get what you want, you have to earn it. Maybe I’m just reading the wrong books, but the thought of being able to send that message through the course of a vampire story is just too delicious. I had to try it.

Hmm. I think that means I’m ready to start working on it again.

Do you guys think all main characters should be likeable? What is it about a main character that keeps you turning the pages?

I love hearing from you and talking to you so this time, I thought I’d offer a little encouragement. An incentive….Clipart lemon from OpenClipArt,Last week, Raven mentioned the upcoming release of the first story in the Meeting Each Other series. This week I can tell you that the first story in this series is named Vicki & Lara and that I’m offering free copies to four lucky people, which I will send to them the day before the ebook is released. If you want to be in with a chance to win a free copy of my first ebook, then all you need do is leave a comment below, or on any post I publish between now and September 27. I’ll add your name into a virtual hat every time you do and, on September 26 I’ll draw out four names. These four names will receive free copies of the Meeting Each Other: Vicki & Lara ebook in a format to suit their preferred e-reader (ie .mobi or.epub).

Don’t ever say I don’t give you anything. :p

So what are you waiting for? Get commenting. ^_^
custom signature for Ileandra's blog posts

About Ileandra Young

I'm a thirty-*mumbles* year old (purple loving, cheese worshipping) author of fantasy, juggling a pair of beautiful twin boys with my burning desire to make up stories and write them all down. When I get the chance, I play games, listen to music, and in days long past I even ran a radio show. Though I occasionally write non-fiction, my heart lives in fantasy and my debut novel, Silk Over Razor Blades is now available through Amazon along with part two of the trilogy, Walking The Razor's Edge.
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13 Responses to I Love You, But Right Now I Hate Your Guts

  1. Kate is says:

    Yes, and I am feeling it right now. I love him to death, ( he’s an ex) I always will, but today I want to reach into his head and shake it up. I’m feeling vindictive too. It’s not a good feeling. One moment I want out him for all he is and the next I want to protect him. Ahhh.


  2. I agree–characters should be relatable but they don’t have to be likable. I just went through this with the short story collection my small press is publishing next month. (This is why I haven’t been blog-visiting lately… books and editing oh my!) A committee member for a citywide reads program, where everyone reads the same book, said we should totally change the order of the stories in this collection because her friends on the committee would love the stories overall, but would hate the first two characters. They’re linked stories, and those first two are rivals and full of flaws–and the second one is terribly angry that his wife ran away with another guy. I panicked at first over how strong her feedback was; we don’t want to alienate these readers, but on the other hand, maybe they’re not our target audience. And if we start with the story of the 9-year-old boy, how will the audience react when we get to the angry neighbors? We opted to keep the stories as-is, after some thought, of course. The author had done and redone the order of them over the course of years, and we decided we wanted to stand by them as-is, likable characters or not.


    • Gosh, that would have made me think twice too. She has a point to some degree, but for me, personally, you made the right choice. It’s a tough call to make though.

      I miss blog visiting too. I didn’t realise editing, rewriting, filming and planning would eat into so much time! I should know better really. Regardless, I’m glad you made it here. 🙂


  3. I absolutely HATE when people tell me my characters aren’t likeable. My book is a damn Psychological Thriller not Chicken Soup for the freaking Soul! Ugh! You’re supposed to identify with their problems but realize that they handled their emotions differently. Hello, not all my characters are healthy in the head. They’re not going to make good decisions.


    • Hehee, psychological chicken soup for the soul? JK

      Yes, I think that ‘one size fits all’ advice isn’t always helpful. Though in the defence of this woman, she only had one chapter of the piece.
      …then again, she did have the synopsis, so she knew where it was going.

      Hmm. Maybe that’s a hint that I need my synopsis to be clearer. *head desk* ugh!


  4. jmmcdowell says:

    I agree with you! Main characters do not have to be likeable. What’s critical is that readers can relate to them in some way. So they can’t be evil or depressed or depraved or whatever caricatures. They need some traits that make readers think, “I get that” or “Gosh, that’s what I’d do, too.”

    That being said, some readers want likeable characters. And that’s fine. There are plenty of other books they will enjoy. But other readers want something different, including flawed and less-than-likeable protagonists. And it’s good to give them something to read, too!


    • I’m pleased to see I’m not alone after all. Relate-to-able (no, it’s not a word, but I like it better than the real one) is key. I’ll be talking about that a bit more tomorrow, but I think that’s where this serial I’m reading has fallen down. Or it may be that my tastes have changed since I was 16. …naw.



  5. C.L. says:

    Completely understandable–and often frustrating when other people don’t get it. I really enjoyed reading this post. I think you have a terrific voice and I love that you talk about your writing. 🙂


  6. Pingback: I Knoooooooooooow What I Like! | Writing: A Conversation Without Interruptions

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