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Zixi
07-17-2007, 09:40 PM
I have completed a YA novel and my main character is a spoiled, aggressive, intelligent girl who lets no one best her. Trouble is my citiquers as well as an editor and agent say she is too unlikeable, (spoiled brat) although the story is impressive.

My trouble stems from the fact that she was a "real" girl and her story is historical fiction. How much of her character can I change to make the story agreeable to the reader and publishers?

And does anyone have a suggestion as to how I can make the audience like her. I feel if I change her too much, she is not being true to who the girl really was.

Thank you in advance.

reenkam
07-17-2007, 09:42 PM
Give her a reason why she has to be the best. maybe something in her past that would make people understand and identify with her, like a parent saying something.

I don't know who the girl is, so I can't really give more examples so much...

Maybe you could add something in that would show a more passionate side, like a pet??

JamieFord
07-17-2007, 09:46 PM
No one is perfect. Everyone has weaknesses, if not, you should create some. Pull her off the pedestal and make her human--give her some noble, yet tragic qualities that your readers can relate to. You want people to cheer for her happiness, not resent it.

Meerkat
07-17-2007, 09:55 PM
She has one thing going against her in two ways and with two possible solutions:

She has the need to be the best at everything, but not the skill. This is primarily due to things being given her, rather than putting in the time and effort to learn how to do things the hard way, becoming expert enough to come by "best" honestly. She must be a bullshit artist, and call on every facet of the rest of her to pull this off. You could make the challenges hard and the solutions remarkable, to ally readers with her.

She is dumbfounded by things others know almost instinctively, they having learned things much earlier the hard way. She says "let them eat cake" things naively, and is loathed for it. You could make the loathing out of proportion to her errors, to gain reader sympathy.

Danger Jane
07-17-2007, 10:00 PM
like no one is perfect, no one is really all bad, either. Make the most you can out of her good qualities. Maybe read Emma by Jane Austen?

Don't look to Roald Dahl for examples of likeable brats :D

glendalough
07-17-2007, 10:04 PM
Well, on my soap (eyerolls) the bad girl always turns good through a love she wants but can't have...yet. Like Brenda...she was a boyfriend stealer, smart mouthed annoyance. Then she fell...hard...for Sonny. A sexy, dark gangster type. He was a bad guy, but at first, out of her reach. This made me like her..showed her vulnerable side in a way many of us can relate to. A love we can't have.

jhtatroe
07-17-2007, 10:07 PM
Your character sounds rather like Artemis Fowl from the Eoin Colfer series. Perhaps you could read through those with an eye to his techniques?

TheIT
07-17-2007, 10:08 PM
Is she selfish? Does she use her aggression only to help herself, or does she help others? She might be more sympathetic if she uses her talents to help someone weaker than herself rather than trouncing them. Perhaps she sees helping as a challenge.

Dancre
07-18-2007, 05:36 AM
I have completed a YA novel and my main character is a spoiled, aggressive, intelligent girl who lets no one best her. Trouble is my citiquers as well as an editor and agent say she is too unlikeable, (spoiled brat) although the story is impressive.

My trouble stems from the fact that she was a "real" girl and her story is historical fiction. How much of her character can I change to make the story agreeable to the reader and publishers?

And does anyone have a suggestion as to how I can make the audience like her. I feel if I change her too much, she is not being true to who the girl really was.

Thank you in advance.

I read on a writer's blog that said the best way to make a MC likeable is to give her characteristics that everyone can understand, like she's mean b/c she's afraid of rejection so she pushes everyone away. Or she was abused as a child so she's afraid of people, or something that folks relate with. Have her do things that folks would normally do, like if she was abused as a child then normally she would be afraid of men or creating friendships. Have her act the same as the reader. And maybe you should dig deeper into your historical MC in order to understand her better?

kim

Sage
07-18-2007, 05:57 AM
like no one is perfect, no one is really all bad, either. Make the most you can out of her good qualities. Maybe read Emma by Jane Austen?This is a good suggestion. I just happen to have recently reread Emma, & realized several chapters in that I didn't like her that much, but a little later she starts to improve, & the first point where she started growing on me was when she realizes for the first time that she was wrong, & truly is sorry & endeavors to improve herself. So clearly one way to make a spoiled brat more likeable is to have them truly sorry when they realize they've done something/someone wrong.

greywaren
07-20-2007, 11:41 PM
I think there are a lot of characters out there that SHOULD be unlikable that aren't. How about the crazy-popular series House? C'mon, House is an a'hole. So what makes him likable?

- he's funny
- he does things that we WISH we were allowed to do
- he's proactive - he goes for what he wants

Sounds like your character could be very similar. If you could get some internal dialogue going where she's funny - humor's a great way to relate to readers. Perhaps the reader is the only one she can really confide in.

Remember, any flawed character can be likable - I don't care how flawed. How many horrible assassins have we laughed and sympathized with because of their personalities? I think instead of pushing her aggression away, own it.

Elodie-Caroline
07-21-2007, 03:25 AM
Hi,
My female MC comes across the same as yours in a lot of ways, I guess she would have been the Paris Hilton of the late 1970s/early1980s.
Mine is like she is because she was abused as a child, she never tells anyone about it though. But my MC has a really wicked sense of humour, which is how she hides the things that haunt her and makes other people like her. She is also very sensitive underneath her tough and flamboyant exterior.

So give your girl a reason why she is like she is, and maybe give her a sense of humour too. One of my beta-readers told me that she loved my work because she laughed and cried with my girl all the way through the story; I don't think I could have had a nicer compliment really :)


Elodie

Julie Worth
07-21-2007, 03:27 AM
Do mean things to her, totally unfairly.

Evaine
07-21-2007, 02:32 PM
The heroine of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgeson Burnett was a horrible little girl at the beginning of the book - which was one of the reasons I liked it.

greywaren
07-21-2007, 06:49 PM
Oh, good one, Evaine - you're right! That book was all about her coming to grips with being horrible.

goatprincess
07-23-2007, 03:42 AM
I love this thread. Know why? Because fiction is all about exploring all sides of human behavior and the human psyche. The suggestions already given are great. I just wanted to add that the challenge of making her likeable while still being herself is the kind of thing that makes writing fun.

dolores haze
07-23-2007, 04:01 AM
You don't have to change her character. Instead, show more of her inner thoughts, feelings, and dialogue. There are reasons why she is so unpleasant, but the reader cannot see them. The writer has to show us why we should feel sympathy for her. IMO, a character does not have to be sympathetic in order to be interesting. But if your crits, an agent, and an editor have all told you this character is too unpleasant to care about, then showing the person inside could keep her character intact, while allowing the reader inside her head. After all - even Hitler loved his mother.

Marian Perera
07-23-2007, 04:28 AM
Do mean things to her, totally unfairly.

I can't emphasize enough what a good idea this is. I had an early novel where a main character was a xenophobic murderer. No regrets when he backstabbed one of his own subordinates or forced unarmed people to commit suicide just because they belonged to the wrong race. In the story, a group of people murdered the woman he loved (who was three months pregnant with their child) and framed him for the crime. They manipulated the trial so that he was found guilty. He lost everything he held dear and was sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor. I found it difficult not to sympathize with him at least a little after that.

White_Pearl
08-03-2007, 02:47 AM
I would try to give her a reason to show what made her so aggressive, such as her parents never had time for her is a classic. Or how about, her loosing a beloved she never got over, just something that helps the reader to understand why your character is the way she is. It makes her at least acceptable if not likeable. The young reader can identify easily with obandenment by parent. Didn't we all felt like that at some time or other? Let her being humbled by some event that turned her around. Good luck.

davids
08-03-2007, 02:52 AM
i had my female nasty girl gang raped by a mad horde of seagulls-or flock if you must! They were acting hordish

moondance
08-03-2007, 09:41 AM
*is curious about how one could be raped by a seagull...*

reenkam
08-03-2007, 09:42 AM
Maybe if you were at the beach and pulled out a piece of break or a cracker.

I can definitely see it happening then.

limitedtimeauthor
08-03-2007, 09:48 AM
I have completed a YA novel and my main character is a spoiled, aggressive, intelligent girl who lets no one best her. Trouble is my citiquers as well as an editor and agent say she is too unlikeable, (spoiled brat) although the story is impressive.

My trouble stems from the fact that she was a "real" girl and her story is historical fiction. How much of her character can I change to make the story agreeable to the reader and publishers?

And does anyone have a suggestion as to how I can make the audience like her. I feel if I change her too much, she is not being true to who the girl really was.

Thank you in advance.Show the insecurities and/or weaknesses that anyone can relate to. Some thread of humanity shared by your target audience.

Lyra Jean
08-03-2007, 07:05 PM
Can't remember the name of the author right now but she wrote the YA "Wolf by the Ears" and "The Coffin Quilt" among other American YA historicals. One set of books she wrote is called the Quilt Trilogy. The second has a very unlikeable girl character. The only reason I continued to read is 1) I like the author. 2) It was the second book in the trilogy. Maybe you can get some ideas from it on how to change your character to be more likeable.

auntybug
08-03-2007, 07:29 PM
Give her a couple of million dollars & check her in rehab...that outta do it....

or

shave her head....get her married...divorced...married...kids.. divorce...rehab..

sorry I'm having a bad day

davids
08-03-2007, 07:38 PM
*is curious about how one could be raped by a seagull...*


You see the simple consideration of such is worth the amicable discharge of said spoiled child-well it is silly Friday after all!

Jacob
08-03-2007, 08:21 PM
I have completed a YA novel and my main character is a spoiled, aggressive, intelligent girl who lets no one best her. Trouble is my citiquers as well as an editor and agent say she is too unlikeable, (spoiled brat) although the story is impressive.

My trouble stems from the fact that she was a "real" girl and her story is historical fiction. How much of her character can I change to make the story agreeable to the reader and publishers?

And does anyone have a suggestion as to how I can make the audience like her. I feel if I change her too much, she is not being true to who the girl really was.

Thank you in advance.

Im a bit confused. If you changed the character so that she is likeable wouldnt that take away from the picture you have already given of her personality. I have reads books and hated a certian character the entire way through but it didnt really take away from the story. Well, one idea is to make her intelligently funny. A couple of good quips here and there maybe some sharp cynicism and the readers will forget they hate her. I guess if that really doesnt fit her character then you could take the traditional and in my opinion quite boring route of giving her some sort of inner struggle that causes her act the way she does. The good part about all of this is that most readers are fickle in their sympathy for characters so you dont really have to change to much if you pull the right emotional strings you could make me hate her on page 22 and fall in love by 23. :) Anyways sorry I cant be more help but good luck!

Elektra
08-03-2007, 08:43 PM
Has Meggy chimed in yet? I know she was facing the same problem with GOTTA GET A Q.

VisionScript
08-04-2007, 09:11 PM
I was going to say, show her correspondence with a sponsor child, but it's historical. Perhaps she sends money to an orphanage or a particular needy child or helps a poor family on a regular dedicated basis. Or give her a soft spot for animals. She could do something like place a basket of food on the porch of a poor family's home on a regular basis.

emsuniverse
08-05-2007, 12:01 AM
How about giving her a sick friend of some sort? Maybe her best friend gets ill, and on the outside the MC stays brave and aggressive, but on the inside she's scared to death and wants to crawl up in a corner and cry for a week?

Provrb1810meggy
08-08-2007, 07:07 PM
Has Meggy chimed in yet? I know she was facing the same problem with GOTTA GET A Q.

Man, did I ever! All of my rejections were, "I really like the premise, but I don't like your character." That book is on the back-burner right now, though I do have a rewrite idea which would make her a completely different character instead of just making who she is now more likable. I'm concentrating on some new projects.

Anyway, my advice would be to start the book out with a moment of insecurity or weakness, so the reader can see this, be interested, and keep it in mind as they read. My advice would also be to have them undergo a gradual transformation to try and become a better person. Maybe they don't intend to do so, but it just happens.

Good luck! Hope your aggressive, unlikable character works out better for you than it did for me!

limitedtimeauthor
08-08-2007, 07:21 PM
My advice would also be to have them undergo a gradual transformation to try and become a better person. Maybe they don't intend to do so, but it just happens.

Two words: Mighty Ducks. :D

ltd.

Provrb1810meggy
08-08-2007, 07:24 PM
Ha...let me add one note about the transformation thing. It should never really be a miraculous, completely drastic transformation, especially if your book spans a short period of time. People don't change like that, unless something huge happens. For example, if someone wanted to transform, during the story they'd still probably slip back into their old ways, or if they're transforming without knowing it, show this difference by one or two small things, not some big event.