Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of encountering someone who thinks they are so amazing that we should thank our lucky stars they allow us to breathe the same air. You can’t help but size them up and wonder what makes them so special. For all intents and purposes, they are just like any other human being but somehow they’ve made the leap from confident to jackass.
I’m working on a new story and for the first time ever, I have a character like this. She is a classic egoist: conceited, boastful, selfish, self-centered, and quick to unapologetically let everyone know how fabulous she is. And her behavior isn’t to mask insecurities or a result of trauma or some cry for help; she really believes her own hype and will do anything to satisfy her urges.
Normally, I can find something to like in just about anyone (real or fictional). Even when I can’t find redeemable qualities, I can at least muster up some empathy for their condition. Not with this character. She’s what you would get if Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’s Veruca Salt and Macaulay Culkin’s character from The Good Son made a baby, so unlike anything that I’ve written before that I can’t even come up with a proper name for her yet. In my notes, she’s known only as “N.”
Despite my ick factor, she has been fun to write and less of a challenge than I thought. I’m completely unleashing my id on this one! But there seems to be a tendency to have these kind of characters miraculously redeem themselves or be dispatched by swift Karmic retribution. I’m not so sure that’s going to happen in this case. People like this do exist in the world and often they don’t get what they deserve.
Are unlikeable characters guilty pleasures or complete turn-offs?