This question was raised on facebook the other day and I have to admit that up until I saw it, I hadn’t given it a thought. I’d always assumed that your main protagonist was someone who you must always love. The question as to whether you can dislike them or not had never entered my head but now it has, I can’t decide. Sometimes the answer is simple; if your protagonist is a nice guy/gal who is always helping people, humble, honourable and gorgeous to boot, then it’s going to be easy to love them but what if your protagonist is a murderer?
Suppose you wrote a novel about a serial killer or some other unwashed fruit loop and their adventures; would it be wrong to dislike them? After all, you would very probably dislike such a person if you met them in real life, so why not dislike them as a fictional character? Is it okay to have a protagonist who is an unlikeable character or must they always be nice? I really feel that there’s no reason why one shouldn’t write a novel with a nasty protagonist; they have stories to tell too. The thing is, would such a book sell?
I suppose the feeling is that if the protagonist is someone you don’t like, then readers won’t want to read the book but is this true? Are readers so superficial that they won’t read a book if they don’t fall in love with my protagonist? I feel the answer is probably yes, readers tend to be that superficial and they want to like the characters and I guess that is why the bad guy is always a secondary protagonist rather than the main event. There is of course, another way of looking at this. As in real life, we may be disgusted by the actions and lives of serial killers, but we are also fascinated by them, so maybe such a book would sell?
What are your thoughts? Add your blog link in the comments and join the debate.