When I read reviews for books, one of the biggest complaints I read is that the reviewer didn’t like the characters, didn’t care about the characters or weren’t invested in them.
I agree that there are few fates worse than an unbearable character ruining a book that I otherwise enjoy. However, so long as the character is right for the plot and is well-developed and interesting, I don’t necessarily need to “like” them.
For instance, I didn’t like any of the characters in Gone Girl and that book blew my mind. However, I was invested in the characters, they were interesting and complex, and I did care about what happened to them. And caring about what happens to a character doesn’t necessarily mean that I want things to work out for them. My biggest concern when it comes to characters is how they serve the story. The characters in Gone Girl are damaged people, but it took damaged characters to illustrate the themes of the novel.
So the question is, what causes us to become invested in characters? I think this is different for everyone. For me, I am easily won over by a character that is complex or different from characters I have read before. I like flawed characters that make mistakes and keep me guessing. I’m put off by characters that are whiny, too-perfect or cliché but that is not enough to keep me from enjoying an otherwise well-written novel.
So now I want to hear from you. Who are your favorite characters and what makes you invested in a character? And are there any characters that were so bad that they ruined the book for you?