When I was writing Affairs of the Dead I was very conscious of the type of character I wanted my MC, Selene, to be. I wanted her to have a more carefree, humorous personality rather than a serious one, I wanted her to have a reckless streak, and sort of just march to the beat of her own drum. I also gave her a skewed way of dealing with men. I wanted to build these aspects in her for the purpose of having them get her in trouble that she would then have to try to get herself out of, because that's the point of a novel after all, you don't want a character who figures everything out easily and makes all the right decisions off the bat.
Because I molded Selene, wrote her story, and spent so much time in her world, of course I am going to carry a bias for my character that makes me want to defend her to others. Now people who've read Affairs have told me how much they like the story and Selene, but I've also had feedback along the lines of...gasp...disliking Selene! How could this be? How could a reader not like this character that I think is so awesome? I'll admit, at first it made me sad to hear a friend of mine tell me he hated Selene, I was of the mindset that if you hated Selene how could you enjoy the novel? Surely that must mean you hate the book too? But then I thought on it, and I realized that isn't necessarily true. You don't have to like the main character to like their story.
Some of the feedback I got about Selene is not understanding her actions, why she does the things she does when it would make sense for her not to, as well as not understanding her attitude with men. I was told by my friend that while he did not think Selene was a very likeable character, he loved the story and actually read it twice. At first I thought, well if a friend hates Selene, what will other people who read the book think? They will hate her too! My book is horrible! But then I let the crazy subside and I understood things differently. Like her or hate her, having a strong reaction about her is a good thing. I think someone telling me they were indifferent about her would be worse than hearing they did not like her. To me it means I made her a strong enough character for the reader to connect to; I just can't control how the reader connects. And I think if you are able to enjoy the novel even if you don't care for the main character, I can't call it a failure.
I thought maybe I had made her too flawed to the point of being unlikeable, but that's not necessarily true. The reader may not agree with her decisions, may think she's stupid for the way she acts sometimes or the things she does, but that's their prerogative and I can't let that make me feel like the story over all is not good. To me, Selene is a character who is not perfect and who encounters a lot of obstacles and tries to do right to fix things even if things don't always end up fixed, and I definitely don't agree with everything she does, but I never set out to write a character I was always in perfect agreement with. So I think my moment of panic is over.
This was definitely a learning moment for me as a writer. I'm no different from other writers or artists who are sensitive about their work or who take critiques like an arrow to the heart, but hearing things like this is good, and needed, because it helped me see perspectives about my own character that I did not see before, and as I delve into writing book two I can keep these things in mind as Selene's journey continues.