Reading Reynje’s very thoughtful and well-written post is what inspired me to write this! Be sure to check her post out 🙂
I will never hesitate to say that I can be a person with a rotten personality. I can be mean, mocking, angry, and grumpy. I can be a person who people don’t want to be in the same room with. I am not like that all the time, of course, but there are days when the struggles I face frustrate me and make my good mood go bad, causing me to take it out on other people.
When I am like that, I highly doubt that anyone would call me ‘likeable.’ So saying that my whole personality is likeable would be lying.
After pondering about that fact, I started to wonder what readers mean when they say a character is likeable. Many reviewers, including me, use the word likeable to describe a character they liked or felt an emotional connection to. But do we ever think about what a disservice that description could be to the characters?
In fiction, most readers want characters that are human. We want them to make mistakes, to be flawed, to be real. We want them to be angry, scornful, and mean at times, just like us. Heck, some characters are very flawed, sometimes bad people like Chelsea Knot from Speechless or Flick from How to Lead a Life of Crime.
And because they act human, we like, even love, them. But saying they are likeable is not accurately describing those characters. Because if you were to meet them awhile walking on the street, would you really want to be their friend? Probably not, unless you met them when they developed into better people.
Of course, the word likeable is totally subjective. And there are characters who can be described that way. But for the characters that I am talking about, the characters that are very flawed and human, I don’t think that saying they are likeable is completely accurate.
So what do we mean when we say a character is likeable? Well, in those times I slip up and say a character is likeable, I normally mean that, well, I liked them. I might not have liked them if I actually met them on the street, but seeing the world through their eyes caused me to like them. People might have their own meaning but that is mine.
Oh, and I am also having misgivings about the word unlikeable also…
I am not trying to insult anyone with this post. In fact, I would love it if you tell me your opinions on what a likeable character is in the comments! I would love to discuss this with you!