There are just some main characters that drive you cra-zy.
You know those characters that make you want to throw a book away or toss it in the fire or permanently delete your digital copy…
This is kind of a broad topic. The way people define Jerk can be different, depending on how you grew up, your social standing, your culture, and so on. But really, if the Main Character in your novel is a jerk to everyone else they interact with for no other reason than they are just mean and mouthy and annoying, then I’m going to be hard-pressed to finish your story. Now, there are case by case situations where jerk-ish MCs are warranted; if I can sense or infer a change of heart beginning to happen (or if it’s in the blurb) then I’ll give the MC a chance. If though, halfway through the book, the main character is still a mean, pig-headed snot-nosed jerk with NO endearing qualities, then I’d rather not waste my time.
EXCEPTIONS: Obviously, an antagonist as the main character is an entirely different scenario and will warrant a different outlook on the story as a whole. Also, I usually just ignore secondary characters who are jerks, unless they really mess up the flow of the story…
Characters who make stupid decisions over and over again and then have little pity parties because of their own dumb decisions.
I’m serious about this one. It annoys me to no end. If your MC is making dumb decisions and then whining about the stupid stuff that’s happening to them, I’m not interested. This is probably going to ruffle feathers… but there has to be some kind of growth in a character for a story to be enjoyable. I usually give them a chance to pull themselves together. If a character continues to make dumb decisions, and then complains when bad stuff happens, OR if suddenly everything magically works out for them at the end for NO logical reason.. not enjoyable.
Flat, boring characters (who do not improve throughout the story)
If your Main character is fast, strong, beautiful/handsome, amiable, gregarious….without any flaws in their backstory, then there’s a problem here. It’s called dimension (or lack there of). This one is probably on every character pet peeve list ever written. Characters with no dimensions are boring. My question for the author: where is the conflict?? Conflict has to occur in order to make a story work. If a character is perfect, if their backstory is perfect….they grew up in a perfect family…there is going to be little to no conflict, making for a very droll story indeed.
EXCEPTION: Unless of course… the character’s perfection is a source of conflict and drives the story along.
Sort of the same thing as the previous example: This of course goes along with genre. If your character is an adult character who just whines all the time about everything, I”m going to stop reading. Even in Young Adult books, I don’t like whiny characters, but I’ll give the story a chance because I know, this is how teens behave in real life. Again, it’s all about how the character grows. If they progress in a positive (or even a negative) direction, as long as their character arc is moving, I’m more inclined to keep reading. But what bothers me is whiny characters who sit there and do nothing. Why is this person an MC?
Unless they are, you know, Tony Stark, or Peter Parker. I’m talking about those characters in a book (or movie) that literally know everything about everything, and they’re not a super genius. When bullets conveniently never hit them, or when they fall from high heights and don’t get injured, or when they’ve got agility and strength that’s abnormal and unexplained—this is not a fully-developed character. A fully developed character will have strengths backed up by explanation, and weaknesses to go along with it. (I’m looking at all of YOU….YA dystopian books.)
It’s all about how the character fits into his or her world. Spiderman and Iron man, Batman, those characters’ powers and abilities both in costume and out of costume are explained in depth and they each have their own specific weaknesses coupled with their strengths.
In fact, for years, I detested Superman because he is so powerful, indefensible, and has one weakness. Kryptonite. In my opinion, that’s terribly limited. Within the last ten years however, I’ve noticed many more DC comics and cartoons showcasing other lesser weakness in his character attributes and so on. In one particular DC cartoon they showcased how a specific strength can even become a weakness if Kryptonite were to embed itself inside of him via a bullet. This is all good news to me; it shows that writers are trying to create a more complete and deeper character of someone so well-beloved. I for one, am glad to see that being done.
Your turn: what book or movie characters drive you up the wall, and not in a good way?