Last winter I spent some time in Edinburgh, and is my wont, I read a book by a local author while I was there. It happened to be ‘FILTH’ by Irvine Welsh.
I loved it. Could NOT put it down. That part of it was narrated — nay, almost DICTATED — by the main character’s tapeworm just added to the charm.
What was most interesting to me was how much I loathed the main character. Loathed and loved. I was completely compelled by Bruce Robertson, and turned the pages as fast as I could, gobbling them up to see what foul circumstance would next arise.
A problem often faced by new writers is when main characters suffer from excessive likeability syndrome. The inclination to make them too heroic, too capable and adept is always there. And that…takes away reality. Everyone is unlikeable at some point. Familiarity may breed contempt, but excessive likeabilty breeds flat characterization.
Now, Irvine Welsh is a genius, and a lunatic of a writer with a brilliantly unique voice and a penchant for taking on the near-impossible. He has a rare gift. But…here’s a thought.
Can you do it, too?
Are you at least willing to give it a shot?
Here’s how I invite you to spend your 100 words tomorrow:
Find an opportunity in your story to make your main character — even for a short while — completely unlikeable. And no fobbing it off on your antagonist or a mere tertiary, either! Look into a part of your character’s psyche that you haven’t yet explored. Can you do it? [And don’t think I didn’t see you picking your nose just then…yeah, I saw it. It was gross.]
Go on — I dare you!