On Balancing the Urge to Slap a Character or Root for Them

I read a number of frustrating books over my vacation, but before you think that means I didn’t like them, I’ll point out that I wrote a review about one of them earlier this week :). Why was that particular book frustrating? Because the girl kept missing out on opportunities where she could have fixed a particular problem, and yet I completely understood why she did.

I just finished reading another book where I was even more frustrated with the main character. In fact, I wanted to reach into the book and slap her. Ok, I’m not actually that violent (unless you ask my brother circa the 1980s), so maybe I’d just shake her and say, “Come on, girl! Get over yourself!” But at the same time, I was still rooting for her to figure things out and finally achieve her happy ending. I wanted the guy to forgive her for all the times she’d messed up, and the author did an excellent job of making me buy into both characters enough to believe that could happen.

In both of these examples, the key was making me care about the character and continue to root for them even when I disagreed with their actions. It’s funny how sometimes what you’re reading validates what you’re writing. I’m in the midst of revising from a second round of comments on my WIP, and I was trying to decide how to address a couple of readers’ reactions to a particular character. Reading these books solidified for me that the character’s actions aren’t necessarily the issue; it’s whether readers will still root for him. They can be ready to deliver a good slap as long as they’ll forgive him in the end.

So now the trick is to ensure I pull that off. I’m still working on it :). But at least I have some good examples as a reference!

Who are some of your favorite frustrating characters?

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About Michelle I. Mason

I'm a full-time writer, focusing mainly on middle grade and young adult fiction with some freelance PR writing and editing on the side. I'm also a wife, mom, Christian, violinist, avid reader and St. Louis Cardinals fan. And I watch way too much TV.
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