Monday, May 25, 2009

Blog Chain: Most intriguing

It's blog chain time again. Mary answered Michelle's question before me.

In your reading or writing do you prefer a main character that is intriguing or one that is likeable? Who are the characters that you love the most? And who are the ones that you love to hate?

Without a doubt, I go for the intrigue.

The one book came to mind when I really thought about this question was
"Good Omens: The Nice & Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch" by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

This story has a couple of main characters, Aziraphale and Crowley, who are the most intriguing fellows around.

To the human eye, Aziraphale is a rare book dealer. In actuality, he's an angel of God. Crowley is an angel of darkness.

Neither character has the quality of a likeable person. Instead of being loyal to their respective causes, they are driven by selfishness.

Upon discovering the anti-Christ is entering the world, the two angels from opposite sites of the net team up to bungle the apocalypse that God has so carefully planned. Aziraphale and Crowley like the world as it is; they aren't ready for it to end.

I love this book because the characters are intriguing. Their antics and the unique voice of the authors had me laughing so hard my stomach hurt. (My favorite line is the question making an obscure reference to ET: "Did any of them kids have some space alien with a face like a friendly turd in a bike basket?")
Another intriguing character I love is Meggie Cleary from another one of my favorite books, "The Thorn Birds" by Colleen McCullough. If I knew a girl like her in real life, I'd probably have a hard time liking her, but she definitely has flaws. For cryin' out loud, she cheats on her husband with a priest and doesn't feel bad about it. That's one messed up chick!

I guess it's no different than real life. I'm not a fan of people like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, but I have to admit I'm intrigued by their publicity stunts.

I think the fictional character that I love to hate the most would probably be Charles Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge from "A Christmas Carol."

In her post, Michelle mentioned the fine balance between detestable and intriguing, and I think in that fine balance you'll find the reason why Scrooge is one of my favorite love-to-hate characters.

It's all about the point of view from which we see them.

If Scrooge's story had been told from the point of view of Bob Cratchett, readers would never have understood why he left work with a "Bah Humbug" on Christmas Eve and appeared at Cratchett's door with a warm heart and happy smile on Christmas morning . We certainly wouldn't believe he had a genuine change of heart without seeing the world through his eyes when he was visited by ghosts.

Getting the reader to understand the way a character interprets the world and why they act and react the way they do is the key to creating a flawed character that wins hearts.

What do you prefer?

Check out Christine's blog to see what she has to say.


Crimogenic said...

Kat, for some reason I couldn't get through The Good Omen. I had the audiobook and I remember thinking if the audiobook wasn't so bad, I would probably like the story. You make me want to go back and read it now.

I go for the intrigue also. I don't need a character who is likeable, but one who is interesting, perhaps even hiding something about him/herself, someone who could be good in one way and totally opposite in another.

ElanaJ said...

I love this part: "Getting the reader to understand the way a character interprets the world and why they act and react the way they do is the key to creating a flawed character that wins hearts."

You're so right. It doesn't matter if it's the villain or the hero or anywhere in between. If a writer can capture the motivation and the way a character interprets the world, they've hooked me.

Good post!

Anonymous said...

Nice post...and Elana, I was so going to quote the same passage you instead I'll just say "What she said!"

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Oooh, The Thorn Birds - great book! And you're right - if I remember correctly there are several tough characters in that book, but you end up feeling for all of them! The quote that Elana and Christine pointed out really does say it all - the key is making sure your reader understands the character.

Rosslyn Elliott said...

I'm going to cop out of the actual question and state a different preference.

I want a protagonist who is admirable and worthy of emulation in some way.

In some cases, that might mean he is likeable. In others (as in the case of TV's Dr. House), he may be abrasive but completely honest and secretly compassionate.

Dr. House is admirable in a strange way, and he's also intriguing.

gzusfreek said...

Kat, You always have such interesting insight on these blog chain days. You've read some great books and get me to want to read them too!
Great post.
I like underdogs - those with terrible flaws who improve, by chance or on purpose :)

C. N. Nevets said...

I think intrigue is the hook, but some measure of "likeability" gets that hook stuck in the reader's mouth. Like may be too strong a word, but I think it's important that the reader be invested in the character, somehow hoping for redemption or meaning or overcoming their "unlikeability."

That's a place where I think, for instance, some Tennesee Williams falls flat. Lot of complicated or intriguing characters, but after a little while there needs to be a reason to root for the character or root for some outcome. An MC being miserable and horny doesn't get a reader to stick through to the end.

Sandra said...

I enjoyed Good Omens too! And yes, POV makes all the difference in understanding a character. "A Christmas Carol" wouldn't work if it was in Bob's POV because it's not his story; it's the story of how Scrooge's character changed.

Michelle McLean said...

Ack! Kat I'm so sorry. I read your post and could have sworn I commented but must have got sidetracked (shocker I know!) I loved The Thorn Birds, and there were several moments when I would have loved to just slap Meggie around a bit :) but isn't that one of the wonderful things about reading a really well written book with great characters? And I agree that knowing the motivation behind a character's action makes all the difference - great post!