There are numerous reason why a book doesn’t work for a reader. But one of the most common is that the reader doesn’t have empathy for the character or condone his or her actions. But as many of you have already surmised, perfect characters can be pretty boring. And that is why many authors dare to take risks and create problematic, challenging characters, or characters that make objectionable mistakes.
Author Molly O’Keefe did a post at DearAuthor.com on Difficult Heroines. She interviewed numerous authors and got their take on difficult heroines. Quoting from the blog, Cecilia Grant stated, “Difficult heroines bring a lot of conflict to a romance, which is always a good thing,” while Sarah Mayberry had a different way of expressing the conundrum: “The challenge, as always, is giving readers the information they need to understand what’s behind the character’s difficult-ness. If that’s even a word.” Caitlin Crews understands the inherent challenge: “The fact is, not everyone is going to like your heroine no matter what you do. But I think readers want to know a heroine’s motivation, and if you give it to them, they’ll follow her to a lot of dark places.”
And I wondered if that is true. I think of myself as pretty nit-picky. I have a very low tolerance for characters who are psychologically unsound, such as the 40-year-old hero that has never had relationship or the overly self-abasing heroine. But I realized that there are many difficult characters or scenarios that worked for me as a reader.