I’m not talking about cool bad guys or charming villains, but main characters with annoying traits one after another. Yet the story works. Let’s try to figure out why.
Here’s my example. I was at the gym yesterday and Overboard came on the TV. It’s a fluffy romance with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. The premise is that completely obnoxious, overbearing, snotty rich bitch Joanna on her hubby’s yacht hires poor struggling single dad carpenter Dean to redo her shoe closet — it’s an “emergency.” Dean leers at Joanna, doesn’t ask enough questions to do his job properly to her satisfaction, and is kind of a “whatever” dad who’s getting in trouble with his boys’ school. Neither character is the least bit sympathetic.
Yet I found myself doing extra time on the elliptical so I could keep watching! I don’t even know why — the story itself was totally silly and predictable. I don’t particularly love these two actors. The dialog sucked. But there was something about this somewhat modernized version of Taming of the Shrew that held my interest. It must have been the unlikeable characters. But why?
Someone told me that the female protag in a story I’ve been submitting for critique isn’t very likeable, which I understand. I fling her at the reader on page one with a raft of problems and she’s a bit whiny about them, plus trying to quit smoking, which is making her crabby. But my idea was that this made her more relatable to the (female) reader, and then as the story progresses she tackles her problems one by one and we witness her character growth/change. Of course the reader has to want to keep reading, not get annoyed/bored.
But the person who told me this was a man and men are not predisposed to enjoy romance novels. I think that when a woman starts one, she is predisposed to relate to the female protag, or else she would have picked up another genre of book. I know I will give a romance heroine and storyline the BotD for a while before giving up on the novel. You?