Do you need your protagonists to be ‘likeable’? Discussion + mini rant about annoying tropes

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Hey guys, it’s been a while. I’m back with another interesting discussion question and I wanna hear what you guys think. For the most part, we all read to be entertained, swept away into a world where our problems don’t exist and where we can live vicariously through others. Because of that reason, we tend to gravitate towards stories where the hero has more redeeming qualities because it makes us feel good.

The question begs then, do they necessarily need to be ‘likeable’ to be enjoyable?

My answer to that would be this: as long as the reasoning behind the development of the character is sound, I will read it, and gladly too. Out of all the books I’ve fortunately read throughout my life, there has only been a few that just irked me too much (none of which I remember by the way).

Obviously if the character suffers massive life trauma and in turn, is justifiably a d*ck, I wouldn’t mind it. It would be super if the personality gets better as the story progresses but sometimes we can’t have everything, right?

Another thing that irks me is when authors either a) write an a-hole character just because or b) they make them an ass whilst failing to elaborate on their backstory or it’s not justifiable at all. And then they proceed to make said character MC.

Kill me now lol.

Sometimes I also come across books where the characters are PAINFULLY optimistic. Like holy sh*t, you experience traumatic events a, b and c and you’re still sunshines and gosh darn rainbows? That’s just not realistic. I might be reading something too fantastical but I’m still reading characters from the human race. Don’t venture too far out to the unrealistic.

Oh, the Almighty Martyr kind of character trope too. Kind of in the same vein as the last one but this drives me bonkers. Fiancรฉ cheats on you with your best friend? It’s fine, I forgive you. Parents disown you? I forgive you. Some guys knocks you up and runs away? All peachy here. A murderer is set loose and kills your child then gets you blamed? It’s all good.

Hot damn.

nope

To summarize my rant, no, a character doesn’t have to be ‘likeable’ for me to enjoy a story. The motivation behind their attitude and behavior just has to have some rhyme and reason and maybe resemble your average human.

I read for fun, to relax and maybe pretend for a moment that I have super powers or my life is super tragic or I have the hottest guy/girl falling for me. Hopefully the characters are not too annoying so I could get into the story.

Rant over. How about you guys? Do they need to be ‘likeable’? Do you disagree? Comment down below, let’s chat!

 

Lots of love,

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18 thoughts on “Do you need your protagonists to be ‘likeable’? Discussion + mini rant about annoying tropes

  1. Sahi says:

    I was just struggling with this idea while trying to write a review for Vicious.. Both the main characters are unlikable and though the story is interesting enough, I didnโ€™t find the book as excellent as everyone else does… Now I donโ€™t know how to rate it ๐Ÿ˜ณ๐Ÿ˜ณ๐Ÿ˜ณ
    Anyways, sorry for going off on my own rant… this is an excellent post and I agree with everything that you say.. very well written ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

    Liked by 1 person

    • tornpagesandroses says:

      Oh I love rants, please go on! ๐Ÿ™‚ Even I got to a rant tangent while writing this so. This topic is something I’ve been thinking about for a while too and it’s one of the main reasons why I even stopped using star-ratings temporarily. It was just restricting my ability to judge a book accurately.

      Haven’t read Vicious yet but I seem to be seeing pretty similar reviews to yours, maybe it’s a lesser of two evils kind of deal? I definitely have to be in a mood to read those stories or I just get turned off haha

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sahi says:

        Rants are always fun and cathartic, arenโ€™t they ๐Ÿ˜œ๐Ÿ˜œ๐Ÿ˜œ
        Wow.. not using star ratings sounds quite interesting.. not being restrictive probably helps looking at a book in different angles…
        Vicious definitely needs the right mood.. I DNFd it at the beginning of the month but decided to try again.. it was an interesting concept and written well but what can I say when I donโ€™t like both the MCs… I was truly wishing for half stars on GR because it was better than a 3 but didnโ€™t feel like a 4… ๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ™„๐Ÿ™„

        Like

      • tornpagesandroses says:

        It is pretty unrestricting! Although sometimes I still default to stars when I’m unaware but having the freedom to basically list down all my likes and dislikes and explain it in detail without putting a rating to it. Maybe I’ll start using them in the future again, who knows.

        I’ll start on Schwab’s other books first before I venture into that haha and yes, I wish Goodreads would add half star ratings my goodness! They’re archaic already lol

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sahi says:

        I agree… I will probably try it too for any book that I find conflicting…
        You should probably try her This Savage Song. That book definitely has more interesting and likable characters…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Justine @ Bookish Wisps says:

    I just recently read a book like this ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚. The world building was highly praised by me but the characters was just “where is the development?” And its confusing.

    For me, some characters just come out naturally likeable to be likeable idk haha. But yes I do agree that people don’t have say that a character is likeable to be likeable. They just have to be that and I quote “the motivation behind their attitude and behavior just has to have some rhyme and reason and maybe resemble your average human.” Just make em relatable and close to the realism of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tornpagesandroses says:

      Exactly! I mean, as much as we might want a book about a different world/planet, it still must be relateable. Because if it’s too incomprehensible, there’s kind of no point to the story?
      Everyone has reasons for reading obviously but we love familiarity and being able to connect to stories.

      So yeah haha I just like to think na those kinds of characters are the result of writers new to the craft and hope they get better in the future.

      Like

  3. kozbisa says:

    I am a character driven reader, so it is important to me that I can feel something for the character. It could just be empathy or sympathy, but if the character is unlikable, I need a super strong plot to keep my interest. I enjoyed Gone Girl and The Luckiest Girl Alive despite the fact that the MCs were horrible human beings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tornpagesandroses says:

      Me too! I know a lot of story plots/tropes can be ‘done right’ and if they are, they work out beautifully. I like to think those are more beginner writer mistakes and hopefully in the future they can improve their skills and make better characters ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    • tornpagesandroses says:

      Ohh I love psychopathic stories! It makes me wonder sometimes how close they are to how actual psychos work mentally but I always admire those writers that can make a character so fucked up and yet sound completely reasonable too aka psychos haha.
      Just like what they say too, for the most part, reality is always worse than fiction, especially with what we humans are capable of.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Literary Lion says:

    I entirely agree. I don’t need a “likeable” main character, but I need one who isn’t a ridiculou caricature of different stereotypes.

    My problem is when a character is written as unlikeable but everyone and their brother is still in love with them anyways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tornpagesandroses says:

      Yes! Obviously if the story is meant to be a satire I get the exaggeration? But for your everyday novels, it’s annoying haha

      Ugh I hate that too! It’s like they’re npc characters from games and can’t see the real personality of the character! Especially if it’s romance and they’re MC.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. the bookaholic dreamer says:

    I love this discussion topic! I was just recently pondering this myself, and while I would love to say that an unlikable main character doesn’t bother me one bit, I don’t think that would be entirely honest. In reality, when I look at the books I have given a high rating to, all of them have a main character I REALLY liked. And many of the books I’m rating low have an unlikable protagonist. I feel like everytime I read a book I try to judge it by its quality and also how much I enjoyed the book, and an unlikable character just tends to lower my enjoyment quite often.

    I feel like I wouldn’t mind reading about villains or twisted characters, but I just hate it when a character is annoying, mean to other people, or simply doesn’t think stuff through.

    Now this gets even more complicated if I’m reading a classic ๐Ÿ˜‚ Due to some unrational logic, I’m a lot more likely to completely ignore the unlikableness of a character and enjoy the story regardless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • tornpagesandroses says:

      Yes! Plain unlikeable characters really are annoying and ruins stories for me too. Psychos and all that are super interesting to me if done right haha

      And yes to the classics thing! I think we’re just able to set apart the time period it was written and today when reading it. Yay for us!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious says:

    Great post, and I absolutely agree with you – I actually like unlikeable characters so long as their motivations make sense with their character AND the plot. What I don’t like is when it doesn’t drive the plot forward or even works against the overall plot. Or if their only characteristics are that they are unlikeable.

    Liked by 1 person

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