4 Surefire Ways to Make Readers Dislike Your Story Characters

4 Surefire Ways to Make Readers Dislike Your Story Characters

4 Surefire Ways to Make Readers Dislike Your Story Characters
Photo by Erich Stüssi / via Flickr

4 Surefire Ways to Make Readers Dislike Your Story Characters

There are many components to writing a great novel. Creating dynamic characters is one of them. While we read for many different reasons and at different times, we still want characters with whom we can identify, even in some small way. Whether we're laughing with a comedy or getting hooked in with a psychological thriller, we need a great cast of characters. To get us connected on an emotional level, writers must take their story characters beyond the stereotypes or the obvious.

Learning what not to do when creating characters is a great way to help us think beyond the surface.

So, let's explore some of the ways to make readers dislike your story characters…

Use stereotypical traits.

We've all heard that we don't want cookie-cutter characters, that the characters need to be dynamic with their own sets of personality traits and back stories. But stereotypical characters are abundant. They roam our pages and turn off our readers.

What's a writer to do? To create dynamic characters, we need to get to know our characters. We need to spend time with them and get to know what makes them tick. What keeps them up at night? What are their internal goals and conflicts? What is keeping them from their goals? What are their beliefs, and why do they have those beliefs?

The annoying thing (or maybe it's the fun part) about fiction is that everything has to make sense. You can't just have a character do something out of the blue; there has to be a valid reason behind it. And if you mention a knife lying on the kitchen counter in the first chapter, you darn well better use it by the end of the story. Everything needs to add up. All of the dots need to be connected. But not by coincidence. And it can't look like coincidence.

Make the character perfect (or boring).

I'm not sure what makes a reader hate a character more than a character's perfection. Most readers don't want to read about perfect people. That's boring. They want to read about relatable characters who keep getting into trouble and having to get themselves out of it. They want to see conflict and motivation, and they want to see the characters making mistakes and getting into even bigger situations.

Where's the flaw in character? Where's the crack in the character's resolve?

Give the character an ego.

Another annoying character trait is a big ego. Yes, characters may need some level of confidence, but again, where's the crack in his armor? What causes the blow to his big ego? What brings him back down to earth and makes him relatable to readers?

Let the character complain.

A little bit of complaining may be acceptable, especially if it's paired with humor, but for the most part, readers want characters who can get over themselves and get the work done. Imagine what Cast Away would have been like had Tom Hanks' character complained the whole time he was on the island.

If the character is lacking in development, you'll run the risk of making a reader dislike your story character, maybe even hating him. It's up to you as the writer to make your character's true personality come out by getting to know what makes him tick. Once you do that, you'll allow your readers to connect with the character on an emotional level.

Jody Calkins
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