unlikeable vs. unlovable

Every time I set out to write a story, I do it with three things in mind: Goal, motivation, and conflict. I start sketching out these character sketches, just throwing attitude and ambition and a whole lot of angst at them in the hopes of creating a character who captures my interest.

The last thing on my mind is whether or not anyone will actually like my characters. In fact, sometimes I set out to make them unlikeable because then I get to redeem them (or not). It sounds crazy, right? I mean, in theory, why would you want to spend a few hours of your time (reading) with someone you don’t even like?

Honestly? My favorite characters are the ones I love to hate because they are fascinating. They are raw and self-righteous, they are clever and sometimes crude. They hurt the character you do like, and maybe don’t earn enough forgiveness. But watching them try is so much fun!

This got me thinking about anti-heroes vs. beta heroes vs. Omega. (also, because these traits apply across gender, anti-heroine/beta heroine/Omega)

IMO an anti-hero is a protagonist who seems to function against socially accepted behavior. They can be your big bad breakin’-all-the-rules Alphas, but they aren’t always.

When I think “beta hero” I think this is a protagonist with less than ideal character traits. Not necessarily bad traits, just not perfect. He’s not the biggest or the strongest guy around and he’s okay with that.

An Omega is like an anti-hero who is also comic relief. The villain you love–and love to laugh at. These guys are sneaky–you write them as a villain in one book or series, and the next thing you know, they are clamoring for their own book so you can redeem them.

With all these fascinating character types to play with, I find it hard to seek out likability as a character trait.

Perhaps the craziest thing of all is that when it comes right down to it–I find these characters all the more lovable for their flaws–making them perfect subjects for romance.

So tell me–do you have a favorite anti-hero(ine)? What about betas or Omegas?

2 thoughts on “unlikeable vs. unlovable

  1. Awesome post, Vanessa! In truth, I think we do remember those anti-heroes an awful lot. A good example I read recently was our own Lynn Lorenz’s character Trey in her McCallan series. You want to see Trey do good. You want to reform him. Oh, and Lynn, he needs a book and a woman soon!


  2. Great post, Vanessa. Um, anti-heroes — well, there’s lots of them. I think Bonnie Dee writes some of the best. The two books she did for the Terran Realm series (Measure of a Man and Fruits of Betrayal) have two perfect bad boys and the women who reform them.

    Kresley Cole’s Lothaire also comes to mind.. Loved him finding his perfect woman, even though she was nothing like he ever expected. When those bad boys fall, they fall hard.


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