Likeable Characters: Important or Not?
by Adrienne Clark
I’ve been doing a lot of author interviews lately, and a recurring question I’ve been asked is what I think is the most important element in writing a novel. My answer always comes back to characters. A passionate and devoted reader as much as a writer, I think characters are the most important aspect of any novel because without compelling characters why should the reader want to invest their time? When I put down a book without finishing it the reason is almost always that I just didn’t like the characters. The worst thing I’ve ever said about any book, and the thing I fear most about people saying about mine is: “I just didn’t care.”
If people don’t care about the characters then the author has clearly done something wrong. So what is it that makes us care? Do the characters need to be likeable? My first answer to this was of course the characters need to be likeable. My favourite books introduced me to characters that I grew to love, and was sad to leave behind when the book ended. Authors often say that they love their characters so much they feel protective of them. For some, it causes them real pain to make their characters suffer. But as it often happens, as soon as I decide something must be true I immediately start to question it. Could I think of any examples of books I loved where the characters weren’t particularly likeable? Of course I could. One striking exception to the likeable character rule is Heathcliff from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, which also happens to be one of my favorite novels of all time.
Heathcliff is a difficult, often brutal character, but the author deftly draws us into his bitter, lonely world and somehow manages to make him one of fiction’s most compelling romantic heroes. Even when I didn’t like Heathcliff I was invested in his story. I wanted to understand what made him the way he was. The talent of great writers like Bronte is such that they can make you care even when you feel you shouldn’t. I think that’s what we’re searching for as readers, something to make us care enough to invest our hearts and minds in the life of someone else. The answer to the question of what makes us care is much more complicated than likeableness. Maybe it’s more like physical attraction, difficult to define but we know it when we feel it.
What’s the most important element for you in reading a novel? I’d love to know what you think.
About the Author
Adrienne has previously published short stories in The Storyteller, Beginnings Magazine, New Plains Review, and in the e-zines A Fly in Amber, Grim Graffiti, Les Bonnes Fees, The Altruist, The Devilfish Review, and Rose Red Review. Her short story, Falling was awarded second place in the 2008 Alice Munro short fiction contest. To Dance in Liradon is her first published novel.
An avid reader of fairy tales and other magical stories, a thread of the mysterious or unexpected runs through all of her work. When she’s not writing Adrienne can be found searching for faeries along with her daughters Callista and Juliet.
To Dance in Liradon
Seventeen-year-old Brigid O’Flynn is an outcast. A chance encounter with the Faerie Queen left her tainted in the eyes of the villagers, who blame the Faerie for the village’s missing women and children. Desperate to win the village’s acceptance, Brigid agrees to marry her childhood friend: serious, hardworking, Connell Mackenna. But when Connell disappears before their wedding, Brigid’s hopes are shattered. Blamed for her fiancé’s death, Brigid fears she will suffer the same fate as the other village outcasts, the mysterious Willow Women. Lured into Faerie by their inhuman lovers, and cast out weak and broken, the Willow Women spend their lives searching for the way back into Faerie. When Connell suddenly reappears, Brigid is overjoyed, but everything is not as it seems. Consumed by his desire for beauty and celebration, Connell abandons his responsibilities, and Brigid soon finds herself drawn into a passionate, dangerous world of two.
When Brigid discovers the truth behind Connell’s transformation she’s forced to choose between two men and two worlds. Brigid’s struggle leads her into glittering, ruthless Faerie, where she must rescue her true love from a terrible sacrifice or lose him forever.
Brigid allowed herself to be dragged to the edge of the circle before she raised her right foot and kicked backwards as hard as she could. Midir released his hold long enough for her to remove the horseshoe from her bodice. When he tried to seize her again, she shoved him away, the object gripped firmly in her hand.
Midir stumbled backwards, and the smell of burning flesh filled the air. A desperate, keening sound rose up from the circle before it broke apart and every Faerie man and woman rushed towards her. Long slender arms grabbed hold of each of her limbs, and Brigid felt certain they intended to tear her to pieces. A violet-eyed woman sat on top of Brigid’s chest, crushing the air from her lungs. Brigid watched the beauty leak from her face until it was a hollow masque of rage.
“Release her!” the Faerie Queen screamed.
Whining like disappointed children, the Faerie reluctantly retreated, and Brigid rose shakily to her feet.
The Faerie Queen’s eyes flashed cruelly. “If you want him, come and claim him!”
Adrienne will be awarding winner’s choice of a Kindle touch, Nook Simple Touch, or a $100 Apple gift card, and one crystal Faerie necklace similar to what Brigid wore to the Faerie ball to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below.
Why not visit the other tour stops? The more you comment, the higher your chance of winning!