Hello friends! Vera here and today, I brought you a discussion about characters, in particular about what things can make me dislike a character. Characters can make or break a book for me; as such, my most favorite books have gained their status because I love their characters so much, while the biggest issue with my least favorite books tends to be their horrible characters. That being said, having some issues with the characters doesn’t necessarily ruin a book for me, so as you’ll see, some of the things I’ll mention have appeared in books I enjoyed. Anyhow, without further ado, let’s jump into this discussion.
when every character has a complex backstory despite being extremely young
I’m going to be honest, this has always been one of my big issues with YA fantasy; there is something unrealistic about every single character in a novel having a long, complicated backstory. I’m not going to name the book I’m talking about, but there is one fantasy in particular that I’m thinking about where the main cast all have backstories that sound like they would take years and years to actually unfold. I loved this book and recommended it to multiple friends, all of whom loved it too… however, they also mentioned this issue, so I’m not the only one who feels this way.
That being said, traumatic things do happen to children and teens, and we should never police these stories – everyone deserves to see themselves and their experiences represented on page. Also, in certain fantasy worlds or scenarios, it makes sense for young people to have detailed, complex or even traumatic backstories. In the book I mentioned, I doubt I’d have ever concentrated on this issue had this been only the case for one or two characters as opposed to all of them.
lack of complexity
I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t like it when a character is just one thing, instead of a complex human being. It is boring – and unrealistic – when someone has essentially one characteristic that defines them. This most typically happens to supporting characters, but something I have seen happen to main characters is that they start out as more complex characters and then slowly lose that complexity. That’s always frustrating to see, especially when there’s no explanation for that change.
I’m not sure how to explain this without being offensive – I’m going to try to use an example, but bear with me until the end. Recently, I read a romance novel in which the heroine wanted a big family, with many children. For the first half or so of the book, we knew this was something she wanted, but besides this, she was also occupied with other things, like her family (her mother and siblings), society, as well as falling in love. However, as soon as she got married, all the author would write about was this character’s desire for children. While I understand that children were her biggest desire – and there’s nothing wrong with that! – I firmly believe that everyone is a combination of different traits and desires and dreams, so I found it maddening that suddenly every other part of this character disappeared.
lack of friendship or family
I’m not saying that there aren’t people who are in situations where they don’t or can’t have friends, that certainly happens. However, when it comes to books, lack of friendship tends to be associated with characters who think they are better than everyone else. The “not like other girls” trope seems to be dying out, but occasionally, I still pick up a book – usually a backlist title – where this trope is used and it makes me so frustrated.
The lack of friendship is also a problem in terms of building complex characters, in my opinion. Having friends around them – or a family, for that matter – is what allows us to see how the protagonist talks to others and how they are changed and affected by the people in their lives. For instance, in case there is a decision to be made, I like to see how the protagonist handles disagreements, because it tells a lot about a person. Do they compromise, listen to others, or remain completely stubborn? None of these are necessarily wrong, mind you, but this is interesting to see to me.
You might say that a discussion like that – or, indeed, most kinds of interactions – can happen between any character (like an ally) and the protagonist. True, but in that case, you won’t really see a lot of things that are a part of friendships or families, such as teasing each other or comforting each other. Things like this add to a character, so if friends and/or family are not present, that is always disappointing.
What things make you dislike characters? Do we have anything in common? Do you disagree with anything I said?