Does a story’s protagonist have to be likable? We discuss! Ep 29 FREE podcast for writers

Nail Your Novel

Does the main character of a story have to be likable or sympathetic? It’s a point that’s frequently raised by writers, readers, editors and critics. But consider this: a story is usually about a person under pressure. And people under pressure don’t always behave well or likably. Because they’re not saints.

On the other hand, they must have something that makes the reader care. So what is that?

We’re discussing that in today’s show. ‘We’, in case you’re wondering, are independent bookseller Peter Snell and moi.

Stream from the widget below or go to our Mixcloud page and binge the whole lot.

PS If you’d like more concentrated writing advice, try my Nail Your Novelbooks (especially my book on characters). If you’re curious about my own creative writing, find novels here and my travel memoir here. If you’d like to support bricks-and-mortar bookstores (US only at…

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7 thoughts on “Does a story’s protagonist have to be likable? We discuss! Ep 29 FREE podcast for writers

  1. Great idea for discussion. IMO, not necessarily likable, but, typically, have something human and relatable, even if in their flaws, exceptions of course, Patrick Bateman, Tom Ripley… Any female?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t really go for the concept of ‘likable’ but prefer them to be interesting and relatable. If they’re not likable, though, they should be shown to be capable of a bit of light – or to lose. IMO, but we’re all different in how we read/watch a story. I believe the reader/viewer owns the story as they read/watch, bring to it all their history and memories and anything else. These are the things that make it worth sticking with to the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I read a few romantic comedies last year, before I started writing my own Annabelle Riley series. In two of the books, I did not warm to the main character. In two other books, I only started to like/care about the main character half way through and then really wanted a happy ending for them. The one other book I liked was brilliant. I loved the main character from start to finish. Right from the start there was something that really drew me in.

    But I read all five books and enjoyed the writing style of the author. It made me realize that if a writer has a story to tell, not to get too caught up about how you feel about the characters, there is always a reason a writer paints them that way. Sometimes you are not supposed to like them.

    Liked by 1 person

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