Veronique Darwin

Do you like my narrator?

In My Writing on July 7, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Jillian is sort of rude. At one point she raises her middle finger at a passing motorist. She doesn’t like that her boyfriend holds on to parts of her body in public. Is Jillian unlikable, or is Jillian all the nagging things you hate about yourself?

I read that protagonists don’t have to be likable, they just have to be polarizing. If people hate the person they’re reading about, they won’t stop reading. They feel passion in this enmity; they are in love with the act of hating.

But I’m in love with Jillian – I’m in love with all my main characters – so I want you to be too. Is that greedy? Do I need to just let Jillian loose on the world?

I tried to make Jillian more likable when it was brought to my attention she wasn’t (as of her introduction in Chapter One, at least). Here are some ways I changed that first chapter around to make Jillian a bit more readable:

-She is now a bad driver

-She now only pretends to like Scotch

-She now puts up with a lot of shit

-Her neighbours now like her

-She now became friends with her plane partner

-She now says thank you

-She now loves her boyfriend (secretly)

I would suggest doing things like this to your own narrator, if only to make them more personable. An unlikeable protagonist must still be personable in order to be hated. If a protagonist is closed off, where’s the story? I don’t want to read the point of view of a flat character with only one personality trait. I want to read a character that has so many faults, some of which I think are cute, some of which I recoil from (because they’re also mine).

Maybe the more faulted I make Jillian the more likable she becomes. And open. She has to be open. After all, she allegedly wrote this book.

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