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Thread: Unsympathetic Female Lead

  1. #26
    Old Hand in the Biz Barbara R.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    New York
    P.S. One of the best unsympathetic characters who turns into a hero I've encountered in recent years was the protagonist of Joe Hill's A HEART-SHAPED BOX, which was also one of the best first novels I've read lately. The MC is male, but I don't think that matters; the point is that he's a guy with a good heart and a bad attitude who's tested throughout the book and ends up becoming his better self.

    And now that I've ruined it for you, go ahead and read!

  2. #27
    Nicole Castro ccarver30's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Wherever the MMC is
    Quote Originally Posted by angeluscado View Post
    I can't remember reading anything like this before, but if the character grew and changed throughout the story, I'd give it a shot. It's the characters that remain the same horrible people after going through something life-changing who bug me to no end.
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  3. #28
    Impractical Fantasy Animal sunandshadow's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Pittsburgh, PA, USA
    Quote Originally Posted by Captcha View Post
    Sunandshadow - do you avoid books where the MC is initially unsympathetic but there are hints of redemption, or just those where the MC is unsympathetic throughout?
    I'm irritated by MCs who are initially unsympathetic (and settings which are unsympathetic/repellant, for that matter). If the back cover copy pretty much says they're going to become sympathetic, I'll try to ignore my irritation for a few chapters to give the book a chance to get there.

    An example is Descendants of the Light by Eve Vaugn. From the description (alien men with wings capture some earth women who are actually not quite human with intent to marry them) this would seem like a book right up my alley. But it just completely fails at being sympathetic, either the characters (especially the bitter, twice-divorced supermodel who is the viewpoint character in the first section) or the fantasy world where women don't have equal rights and men who don't make the cut as warriors have their wings cut off as a symbol of their inadequacy. *shudder*

  4. #29
    practical experience, FTW LJD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Quote Originally Posted by Captcha View Post
    Do you guys have any ideas on this? I'm thinking of writing a story where a spoiled Paris Hilton type gets caught up in a survival situation and has to work with the male lead to get out of it. Through the course of the book she grows up and actually ends up being a person of some depth, but you'd never guess it at the start.

    Will this fly? We're told that readers have to identify with our female characters, and I really don't think people will (or should) until well into the book. Has anyone read/written anything like this?
    I Kissed an Earl (Julie Anne Long)

    I enjoyed this book although the heroine starts off quite spoiled. I tend not to like romance novels in which the MCs are hard to like. But I think it worked for me here because:

    1) Even though she's spoiled, she's devoted to her family, and will do anything for them...which is why she's on the adventure in the first place. So she is not without redeeming qualities, even at the beginning.

    2) She does change.

  5. #30
    figuring it all out tracivermillion's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    I actually recently read one that I really liked. It was a YA novel by Kresley Cole called Poison Princess. Rich girl who is a "mean girl," but becomes the one you're rooting for. I loved that she was flawed, and can't wait to read the rest in the series.
    A writer, like an athlete, must 'train' every day. What did I do today to keep in 'form'? Susan Sontag

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  6. #31
    paranormal erotic romance gingerwoman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Quote Originally Posted by linkonrad View Post
    Jane Austen wrote Emma, with a lead who was pretty unlikeable at times, but it's still a book many people enjoy.

    Go for it! I'd read it.
    The movie Clueless starring Alicia Silverstone is a retelling of Emma. (For anyone who doesn't already know that.)

    Oh and I haven't seen the movie Legally Blond but I'm sure that's again, a similar kind of thing. I think the key is these woman are stubborn about something or other beneath the shallow they have a strong core and they grow up.
    On my massive tbw list (to be written) I have another Christmas story in mind along these lines. Of course being me it will be super erotic.
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  7. #32
    Zombie lovin' elindsen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    somewhere between hell and back
    I personally don't like the angle of the sister. To me it comes across as if it's important to her that's all that matters. Protecting someone she loves is easy. Protecting someone not important to her (humane society, nursing homes) gives a better sympathy angle for me.

  8. #33
    Listening to the Voices In My Head Satori1977's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    I can see the Rocky Mountains
    I like the idea of a flawed heroine. I can't stand the all too perfect ones. She can be unsypathetic, but to a point. She must have redeeming qualities that come out, even slowly at first, in the beginning. And she can't go too far. But if done well, it could be a great story.
    Rejection isn't failure. Failure is giving up. Everybody gets rejected, it's how you handle it that determines where you will end up.

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  9. #34
    Benefactor Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    I just read "Here I go Again" - MC was definitely annoying at first.

    I gotten a few comments about my own unsympathetic MCs, but my current MC grows (and started out nice - but that comes out further into the book) so hopefully I can convey that successfully.

    Good luck!

  10. #35
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Is she a selfish brat, or is she selfish b/c her parents have given her everything she could want/need and she's never had the chance to learn to be a competent, mature adult?

    Either way, maybe show her unattractive actions coupled with self-doubt - she acts spoiled when she won't wade into the water to catch fish, say, but you clue the reader that she's terrified of water and thinks that if he sees her fear, he'll look down on her or use it against her or whatever - the reader can have a little sympathy for her.

    I have to agree with others who dislike perfect heroines. Well-rounded MCs have to have flaws otherwise they'll be boring and flat.

  11. #36
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Excellent ideas, guys - thanks!

  12. #37
    Plotting something Ambri's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Second star to the right, straight on till evening
    The heroine in Laura Kinsale's Prince of Midnight was somewhat cold and unsympathetic at first. But readers get glimpses of the tragic backstory that made her that way.

  13. #38
    υπείκωphobe Wilde_at_heart's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Southern Ontario
    What would make a character still sympathetic to me would be either if she is still quite charming otherwise, or if she already has at least some insight into her rather obnoxious traits, that perhaps frustrates her even early on.

    Such as a where she acts all princessy, then has a quiet moment where she wonders why she acts like that, or she regrets her outburst but doesn't want to apologize because she wants to save face now.

    Either that or you make her so obnoxious that readers can't wait to see her comeuppance.

    I don't think characters always have to be sympathetic for me to read on, so much as engaging.

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