I'm reading one of those books where, character-wise, my sympathies do not seem to be aligned with the author's. That is, I like the character I'm not supposed to like a heck of a lot more than I like the two characters I am supposed to like.
As an author, I'm naturally
interested in how this happens, what the author has done to alienate me
from Characters A and B and defend Character C, when clearly I'm
"supposed" to feel the other way around. Here's what I've identified so
--Character C is more passionate than either A or B. Both A
and B have drifted along, with vague ambitions that they've never really
pursued, doing a lot less than they're capable of. C has smaller
ambitions (for which C is criticized by both of the other characters),
but at least C has pursued those ambitions with zeal. The thing that A
wants most, A has never even taken the slightest step to pursue (and
somehow sees this as C's fault).
--C is sort of quirky and
hapless and, early on, is placed in a vulnerable and quite funny
situation (from which A is completely absent). This was the start of my
sympathetic connection to C. Right after this scene, A does something
deliberately mean-spirited toward C, which made me dislike A. I think
this act by A is where my sympathies were most firmly channeled into the
pro-C anti-A camp.
--Early in the book, Characters A and C have a
difference of opinion over a subjective matter. The book immediately
implies (and continues to suggest) that Character A is "right" and C's
views are pathetic. But as a reader, I'm unconvinced. Since this is a
matter of opinion, I don't see how either of them can be "right," or why
C's opinion isn't just as valid as A's. This perceived unfairness
toward C shored up my protectiveness toward C. And at one point, C has a
chance to thwart A's expression of A's differing views, but instead
enables A to find a wider audience for those views.
scene where A blames C for something that was under A's control, not C's
control. After several pages of fuming at C, A only seems vaguely aware
that maybe the true blame lies elsewhere.
--C does some things that benefit B, but B has only contempt for C.
--Both A and C deceive each other. C confesses immediately. A punishes C for C's deception, but continues in A's own deception.
I'm wrong and the author is planning a twist; maybe I will find out in
the last third of the book that C is supposed to be one of the good
guys, and not a buffoon after all. So far I think not. (But if that
happens, then this author is a genius at properly manipulating my
sympathies.) Overall, though, whichever way this book goes, this has
been a useful exercise in allowing me to see what can make characters
likable and unlikable. In this case, I see that when a character is
treated meanly and unfairly by other characters, the so-called
justification of "but that character deserves it for being really
boring/nerdy/annoying" doesn't always work, and the unfairness may
backfire, leading the reader to sympathize with the supposedly