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katiemac
09-13-2008, 04:53 AM
I'm working with a grief-stricken main character who remains, for a large portion of the story, in a depressive and delusional state.

We've had unlikable character discussions, but I'm really trying to keep the MC likable from the start--not whiny, but still, not someone capable of moving on.

Anyone else tried to balance a likable character stuck in an unlikable situation? Keeping readers empathetic despite someone's inability to change, even though they're trying?

Chasing the Horizon
09-13-2008, 07:03 AM
What KTC said. It's amazing how far a sense of humor goes with readers.

Topaz044
09-13-2008, 07:49 AM
One of my MCs lost his wife in my story. He's a drug user and an alcoholic. And he constantly makes the wrong choices that often gets others killed. So he's about as anti-hero as they come. Yet the fate of the world rests on him somehow. :)

maestrowork
09-13-2008, 08:32 AM
I agree with humor. This sounds a bit heavy and if the character is in a depressive and delusional state throughout, you definitely need to lighten it up with humor. Kindness, too. Or quirks -- something that is interesting to the readers even if the characters don't think so. Kind of like Life is Beautiful -- you need all that to get through the day.

NicoleMD
09-13-2008, 09:17 AM
Truth appeals to me, or at least the character's version of Truth. It almost resonates as humor to me, but a little more subtly. Like an inside joke about the world as we know it.

Nicole

tehuti88
09-13-2008, 06:24 PM
The fact that the character is "delusional" makes him sympathetic enough to me. Delusional insinuates that he's not in his right mind, as opposed to somebody who might be depressed, yes, but is still "sane" and not doing anything about it.

As somebody who suffers depression and really CAN'T find a way out of things, I still have to admit I wouldn't sympathize with myself as a character very much because I would come across as too self-defeatist and whiny. If I were delusional however, it would make more sense because delusions are not within our conscious control. It removes the sense that we're just "being helpless on purpose" (even if we aren't--it's reader perception that trumps reality, in this case).

It's like, for example, a character who kills somebody. Did they kill that person because they just wanted their money, or they felt like it, or whatever? Not going to empathize with them based on that alone. If they killed a person because some sort of inner state insisted they must do it in order for their own safety, or for something to work out, then IMO they're easier to sympathize with because they really didn't understand how wrong it was, or, if they did, then their delusions told them there were greater things at stake. They couldn't control it. They had no choice.

That might just be me who finds this reasonable, though. :o

katiemac
09-13-2008, 09:29 PM
Thanks for the responses, everyone.


The fact that the character is "delusional" makes him sympathetic enough to me. Delusional insinuates that he's not in his right mind, as opposed to somebody who might be depressed, yes, but is still "sane" and not doing anything about it.

As somebody who suffers depression and really CAN'T find a way out of things, I still have to admit I wouldn't sympathize with myself as a character very much because I would come across as too self-defeatist and whiny.

This "clicked" very well, so thanks for saying it. The self-defeatist and whiny disposition is one I'm trying to avoid, but not only to I have this MC getting through the day, there are other characters around for support and possibly that humor angle others have mentioned. I guess partly the empathy is coming from friends (who all deal with the same loss), which may spill over to the readers.

Madison
09-14-2008, 04:43 AM
Donald Maas in his 'Writing the Breakout Novel' devotes (I think) an entire chapter to this idea of a depressed character. You're right - it's hard to make a depressed/angsty character likeable. Donald Maas suggests that dark characters need to be fighting for themselves (trying to come out of the depression) and have at least a glimmer of hope. This way your readers will be rooting for the character the entire way through.

GLAZE_by_KyrstinMc
09-14-2008, 04:51 AM
I wrote one once.

The character was pathetic beyond belief. When I showed it to my friends, they said they felt bad... but something was missing to create a bond.

Make sure any decisions that character makes are based off good morals, and allow them to think for themselves.