Postcard For Reader + TIME

What is a likable main character?

Sara from The Page Sage swung by here to talk about likable protagonists a few months ago and Wordchasing was talking about what we talk about when we say we like something and it got me thinking.

Likable characters are great.

But my favorite characters I like... and I wouldn't want to be friends with most of them. They'd get me in trouble or rub me the wrong way or I'd be yelling at them all the time for some terrible decisions they'd make.

Why do we describe characters as likable?

What does that mean?

Are likable characters are nice? Do we like them because they're generic? Do they fit the mold of a person we like: cordial, sweet, tries to make the right decisions, has a relatable experience?

Whenever I hear a character described as likable, they fit the above description.

But those aren't the characters I like.

I like characters that interest me. Widdershins fascinates me, but I'm certain that not everybody would like her. People would undoubtedly be frustrated by Bertie, but I love her stubbornness and her ability to persevere. Lessa is not traditionally likable by far, but she shapes herself to be a queen, and I love reading stories like that.

I feel like saying a character is likable is much like saying a person is likable -- you're not against them, but there's no other way to describe them. "Oh, yes, they're nice. I like them." You don't say they're interesting because of this or that, or that they're funny, or they make you laugh.

They're nice. They're likable.

To hell with likable characters, I think. I much prefer characters I can describe, who interest me because they're fascinating or clever or stubborn or strong. Nice is good, but I want more than nice, more than likable.

What do you think?

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What is a likable main character? + TIME