Friday, September 23, 2022

Writing the Unsympathetic Narrator--So What If Your Readers Don't Like Them?

Last week, I talked about false beliefs, how they create character change and growth. As a character in fiction or memoir faces the limitations of their beliefs about a situation, themselves, or the world, they often find a bigger view. That gives them the opportunity to change, to learn stuff, to become a more authentic person.

Life is life, though. The opposite is also (sadly, often) true. We see the limits but we continue to embrace them. We may clasp even more tightly, fearing the unknown more than we detest our current situation. Character in fiction and memoir do this too, even more so. They become what's called unsympathetic.

Many writing books and many writing teachers have advised me to lean towards the more sympathetic character--if I want readers to engage in the story. I've found this sometimes true. If a character is really awful, or very stuck, and it's hard to get behind them, readers can detach from the story.