Most novels have a central main character. Often times that central main character has to carry the overtures of the main plot. Whether they are the most important person in the plot or not, they are often what seems like the main force. With so much focus on them as the main character, it is very important that they work. They need to be interesting and engaging. They need to be characters that are living and breathing the story. That said, even a living breathing character can be distant an off-putting.
It’s strange when you find yourself rooting against the main character, particularly when you know you are supposed to enjoy them. It is because the main character who sets the tone for the entire experience. Thus having a main character that you want to root for no matter how nice or awful they are is important. You need to become invested. When it comes to characters that are a bit more closed off it is harder to make them work as the main character. This is the issue I’m currently running into in my WIP, but something that I’ve come to realize is a problem even with a character that is established.
Let’s get this straight, an awful person can be completely captivating and make me want to root for them. If a character is completely selfish, I can kind of understand where they are coming from. If they are the biggest jerks in the world I can understand. If they offer up their friends to be killed because it’s the only way to reach their end goal, I’m down. Yes, what I’m saying is that a villain can be as understandable, relateable, and enjoyable as a character that is good and wants to help.
What is hard to get past is a character that is has a set of values that they don’t even attempt to follow themselves. Being a hypocrite can be an interesting trait for a character. However, when it comes to the main character it gets frustrating seeing the character not even realize they are being a hypocrite especially when they are addressing the exact matter that makes them a hypocrite.
How do you come to enjoy a character, who you fundamentally wish to root against. You lament their decisions and dislike who they favor. When you enjoy who is the villain more than the protagonist or favor the side characters more, there is something not right with the MC. This isn’t necessarily the kiss of death if all the other characters are entertaining and the plot is fun.
In my case, I’ve dialed some of the harshness of my MC back so she isn’t so aggressive. She’s still a warrior, but I made it a point to show her kindness a bit more. I showed her valuing her friendships and her confusion over her situation. Slowly, she’s become a character that more people are relating to. If I keep this up she’ll be kickass, beloved, and a basket with more issues than anyone should have. I have to tweak and find the sweet spot, but I have time. A published book does not.