Sunday, 1 October 2017

Some of my Characters are Dicks

I have been told I do characters well. I tend to think that used to be true but I've lost the power somewhere along the line and now struggle a little. I've heard a few times recently that a couple of my characters are unlikeable and that makes me a little sad and a little happy at the same time. I mean, the characters in question are a bit dickish. And I like writing characters like that! Sometimes people are a bit dickish. And I don't mean the character's a dick as in, they're just a nasty douchebag – I mean, they're mostly a good person but have moments of twattishness.

And I think I've always done that. It's not published (yet) but I've had a couple of beta readers tell me that my vain manchild, Ambrose, in The Beautiful Man, is a bit of a tool. And he is, but he's a good guy beneath the swagger. Another beta told me how much she loved him and characters like him, so it may be more of a case of clashing personalities (between character and reader) rather than him being a shitty character.

Same thing with Liam in Otherworld. Some readers adore him. Others think he's a dick. And he is a bit of a dick.

See also Rowan, in Shuttered.

Most recently I've been hearing a couple of 'I just don't like him's from readers about Noah in Whitecott Manor. In fact, I was even warned by my editor that he was coming over as unlikeable in a couple of instances and I refuted the fact and carried on. Thing is, Noah is young – I don't mention his age but I imagine him to be early twenties – and he's probably been babied by his parents. He's been in a toxic controlling relationship and when he comes out of that, he does tend to act a bit bratty because he's free and he wants to do his own thing finally. He probably is a bit selfish, and high maintenance, and because we don't get to read anything from his POV we don't see any of his inner workings. But ultimately, he is a nice guy. He wouldn't hurt anybody and when he grows up, and he's allowed to grow up, he'll make a very good partner. Should I have toned him down? I'm not sure.

Then I have the characters who are dicks in the bad way. They're team evil. Like Max in the not-yet-published-I've-not-even-finished-writing-it-yet Locke & Co. He's a dick and he knows it. He's a demon so it's kinda his raison d'etre. But he has moments where he's almost, almost, a nice guy. I wonder what the reaction to him will be like – I've already had one beta warn me he's possibly too creepy.

Of course I want all my characters to be liked, even the ones who are meant to be bad guys, but when a character I thought was reasonably likeable is disliked by readers it can be a little disheartening. I mean, I know they're a dick, but why can't you see their cuddly inner core? This character's a good person, liiiiike them, pleeeease! *ahem* And there's the writer angst. Am I just not doing this as well as I thought I was?

Still, to get an emotional response from a reader, whether that emotion is love or hate, is pretty good anyway so I'll take it.  I'm a little bit happy and a little bit sad. And I'll carry on writing the dicks anyway.


  1. One of the things I like about Rowan, about Ambrose, and about Noah, was that I can see them being dicks, but I want to shake them because they're basically decent guys--even good guys--and were letting themselves down. They are the friend, or family member, who you really like, but who really annoys you sometimes. Which makes them more believable in many ways, if not always likeable.

    Perhaps, one day, one of them will have an epiphany, realise they're being a knob, and that sudden spurt of self-awareness will transform them into a better person. Maybe that hope is part of what keeps some people reading.

    1. Thank you! Maybe I need to let them have that epiphany on page (or sooner, when it does happen on page)/