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Does the main character have to be likeable?

Certainly, if you look at highly successful movies, the answer is probably yes.

On the other hand, if you look at Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov is hardly likeable.  He is a brilliant example of a highly alienated youth that can kill to feel alive.  This is similar to the thrill killing that Leopold and Loeb committed in the 1930’s. And I am using Dostoevsky’s hero as a model for some of my terrorists in the novel I am writing.

In the end, he is loved by the woman that saves him, and his desire for confession also shows he is redeemable.  If he had stayed a complete anti-hero, the novel would not have worked.  Indeed he wants to be someone, but realizes as most of us do, that intimacy and the awakening of a spiritual sense is far more satisfying than worldly fame.

It is easier to sell a book if the hero(ine) is wonderfully loveable.  Or becomes loveable, like Scrooge in Dicken’s Christmas Carol.

And the villain does not have to be likeable.   I am thinking of Ahab in Moby Dick.
But he is somewhat understandable.  If the villain is completely mysterious, I wonder if that can work.  I have no idea.

 

 

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