Are Likable Characters Important in Women’s Fiction?

Interesting. I don’t need “likable.” Relatable, yes. Interesting, yes. Makes me root for her to learn some hard lessons through the story, absolutely. What do you think?

A Writer's Path


When the moderator of a recent women’s fiction panel asked me if I expected to be friends with the protagonists in the women’s fiction I read, I had the oddest reaction: my mind went blank. Madly scanning my mental spreadsheet of great fiction in an effort to be truthful, in front of an auditorium full of avid readers I would have been happy to impress, I could suddenly recall no protagonist in any book I’d ever read. Could I think of characters who were compelling, closed off, quirky, troubled, clever? Sure. But I had never thought to sort any of them into the column titled “friends.”

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7 thoughts on “Are Likable Characters Important in Women’s Fiction?

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    I don’t need to really like a character to enjoy a book. The post you shared by A Writer’s Path uses the example of Gone Girl. That’s a great one to choose, because although not many readers will like Amy, we can relate to her (though not with all her actions), and it’s still a great read. Same goes for The Girl on the Train. I wouldn’t necessarily want to be friends with the main character, but I enjoyed reading about her.

  2. dvberkom says:

    Early in my career I attended a retreat hosted by an author who had been well known in the 80s (although to be truthful I’d never heard of her–I went b/c my friend talked me into going) She did a critique of the first chapter of a ms by everyone there. When she got to mine, which was an early version of Kate Jones, she tore me a new one, insisting that I make her more likable, that readers wouldn’t want to read about a woman who was a sarcastic smart ass. She was much kinder to everyone else. I decided that getting that much of a strong reaction meant I was on the right road. Many years later, I now have TWO sarcastic smart asses in two series, and I haven’t heard anyone complain, so no, a character doesn’t have to be “likable” for me to read. 😀

    • laurieboris says:

      Ha! DV, I love that! I had a similar thing happen with Frankie, my protagonist from The Joke’s on Me. An agent at a writing workshop told me she was too snarky, that she couldn’t relate to her sense of humor, and that I should make her “softer” to appeal to the market. Pfeh. (And I LOVE your sarcastic smart asses!)

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