Susan Gibb writes
Excellent writers group meeting tonight, and I’ll post more on it tomorrow. But one thing remains floating in my mind that I wanted to put down.
One of the workshopped pieces we felt needed a character buildup, fleshing out. While I said at the time that we need to sympathize with the protagonist, the author rightly said that it is not a likeable character, and that’s exactly the reaction he wanted to him.
This is very true, of course. It’s not sympathy or empathy we’re seeking from the reader for the character, it’s knowing him well enough to love or hate him. Otherwise, we just really don’t give a rat’s ass what happens to him, or his story.
My question goes to the nature of the story in this regard. I agree that the success of a character depends less on likeability than on depth and dimension, but without development, change, or disruption, then what reaction to a character will come other than “okay but so what?”
If a story is mearly meant as an exercise in getting a specific reaction from the audience, the story becomes a manipulative prod, much like ghasts in a haunted house. Is a story really meant for workshop that seeks nothing more for itself?