likeable “unlikeable characters” in chick lit starring Jane Frank & Giveaway
The winner has been chosen – congratulations to SusieQ – you have won an ecopy of my first novel, Just Friends with Benefits! Thanks for playing all 🙂
“Somehow, rather quickly Jane became that friend who you love, but drives you crazy along the way.”
Jane Frank, the main character in my novel, A State of Jane, is a twenty-six-year-old woman who has had a pretty easy life. She comes from a well-to-do family, her parents are still very much in love, she earned good grades in school and her first romantic relationship was a loving and supportive one. Jane has never wanted anything she couldn’t have and her childhood dreams of becoming a partner in her father’s law firm and being married by 30 are only 3 years of law school and a great boyfriend away. Or so she thinks.
“Sometimes I found Jane to be naïve, childish and rather self-absorbed but I also found her to be funny and just trying to find her path.”
Jane re-enters the dating world a year to the day after her break-up with her first and only boyfriend of nine years only to discover that finding a second boyfriend isn’t as easy as she thought and studying for the LSAT is a little difficult when all she wants to do is decipher the Manhattan male. Why are they all completely smitten with her one day and then gone the next?
“As the story went on I saw how Jane had to go through this dating journey to end up where she did.”
My desire in writing A State of Jane was to tell a story of a girl whose life spiraled out of control after she realized that things didn’t always go according to plan. Jane Frank is a good person at heart but she is naïve and sheltered. She would never intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings but is ill-prepared to handle what she deems as failure. Jane becomes obsessed with controlling her destiny to the detriment of her career aspirations and her relationships with friends and family. She becomes self-absorbed and unlikeable but it’s all part of her path to self-discovery and growing up. I don’t want to spoil anything for people who haven’t read A State of Jane yet but Jane ultimately sees the error of her ways and makes amends.
“Through her vulnerable, all-about-me phase, I enjoyed watching her character arc of becoming just plain Jane.”
Jane Frank has a strong character arc and a lot of readers have commented that they found her extremely relatable, even though they wanted to shake her at times. I’ve also received comments from readers who couldn’t warm to Jane despite her character development. Jane is definitely a flawed character and if that is not your cup of tea, you probably will not enjoy A State of Jane. I feel very protective of Jane as if I gave birth to her, which I kind of did. But I know that if Jane really was my daughter, I’d probably have to sit her down at some point and explain that not everyone would like her and that’s ok – it’s part of life. I might introduce her to some other imperfect female characters in chick lit, such as the following:
Darcy Rhone – Something Borrowed/Something Blue – Emily Giffin –Introduced to readers in Something Borrowed, Darcy is the completely self-absorbed, selfish and conceited best friend of Rachel Green and the fiancée of Rachel’s love interest.
From Publisher’s Weekly: “Perhaps beautiful Darcy Rhone isn’t really wicked, but she is one of the most shallow, materialistic, self-centered and naïve 29-year-olds around.”
Darcy was an unlikeable character yet most readers appreciated her growth as a character.
“You really did come to care for and root for Darcy as she became less self-centered.”
“Emily Giffin has done a great job creating a character that, at first, I found myself disliking, and then in the end rooted for her as she founded her happy place in life”
Maggie Feller– In Her Shoes – Jennifer Weiner – The younger and more “beautiful” of two sisters, readers instantly dislike Maggie when she sleeps with her older sister Rose’s boyfriend.
From Publisher’s weekly, “Twenty-eight-year-old Maggie Fuller relies on her looks and size zero body to flirt her way through life while working dozens of dead-end jobs and dreaming of stardom.”
Maggie was easy to dislike at the beginning of the novel having betrayed her sister in one of the worst ways imaginable. It is also difficult to relate to a woman who is completely lazy and irresponsible, relying on her looks to get by in life. However, readers see a different side to Maggie as she comes to terms with her inferiority complex and works hard to be a better person and sister.
“Maggie was so irritating and unlikeable, that the first half of the book was difficult to endure. The second half brought redemption, healing, and transformation to Maggie.”
“Just as you start hating Maggie, the one who has it easy getting jobs and men, Weiner emphasizes a hidden dimension of her character that allows us to empathize with her and realize that maybe she doesn’t have it so easy after all.”
Mattie Johns – The Hating Game – Talli Roland – Mattie Johns is very tightly wound to say the least. She has built walls up around her to keep others away and she’s not a very nice person. However, as the story develops, readers learn that Mattie is in fact capable of true love and selfless behavior.
“At first I found Mattie unlikeable. But even in the beginning, I could detect her vulnerability within her uncompromising exterior. This is a woman who wants to be in control, so it’s interesting to see how she grows as her life becomes more and more out of control.”
Just like these characters, Jane Frank is not always likeable. She’s not always nice. She doesn’t always do the right thing and she can be flat-out selfish. In a word, she is human. Another word is “flawed.” But just like these other characters, there is an explanation for Jane’s behavior, and the consequences of her actions lead her to the path to redemption. I hope that readers will forgive Jane’s “all about me” phase and admire her for putting her flaws out there for the world to see.
“I liked that Jane was not perfect, and even got a little mad at her myself while reading. But that is what makes her a real character.”
What about you? To win an ecopy of my first novel Just Friends With Benefits, please comment with your email address AND the name of one of your favorite flawed females in fiction!
Darcy is a great example. I hated her, even at the end of the book, and when I picked up Something Blue, didn’t know how far I’d make it with Darcy as the main character. It took almost half way into the book for me to start to feel some empathy for her. But in the end I saw how she had changed 🙂
Haefner919 at yahoo dot com
Fantastic article, Meredith. I know I’ve gotten complaints (from my own family) that my character, Stella, is extremely selfish and stupid, and some of my readers didn’t like that I spoke in third person narrative, but to understand Stella, you have to understand the people she loves.
I’d have to choose Graciela “Ace” Jones from Stephanie McAfee’s books which the first one is called Diary of a Mad Fat Girl. She’s just so awesome!
I’d choose Graciela “Ace” Jones from the Diary of a Mad Fat Girl series by Stephanie McAfee. She’s just awesome!
Great article. My main character in Between Boyfriends, Jan Weston, is spoiled, judgmental, defensive, and a bit of a snot, but the more you learn about her the more empathy you feel. She puts in a real effort to change and grows at a believable pace. An unlikeable character that is real and puts in the effort to develop herself is the best kind, even if she takes a couple of books to grow up
I always liked Maggie Feller, even at the beginning. In any case, my favorite is Taylor from “Mrs. Perfect” by Jane Porter.
Becky Bloom from the Shopaholic series!
Such an interesting post! My hat’s off to you, Meredith, for tacking this type of character. Think it’s more of a challenge. And I’d just like to throw Scarlett O’Hara into the pot. A classic unlikable character I love to hate – but also love. 🙂
Great post. Thanks for allowing us to see past the exterior.
I like Holly Bishop from Jane Porter’s “The Frog Prince”; she is my favorite.
My favorite novel is Wuthering Heights. To say Catherine is flawed is an understatement. She’s superficial and bitchy and just plain mean at times, but she loves deeply and passionately. Bronte did an amazing job of making you understand all the facets of her flawed personality.
Darcy is my favorite flawed character -hated her in Something Borrowed, but came to like her in Something Blue 🙂
I loved Sheila Davenport from Finding Out by Sheryn MacMunn
Ioved the lovely and flawed Sheila Daveport I Finding Out by Sheryn MacMunn
I loved this post, Meredith!! I’m a big fan of your Jane. She had flaws but I was definitely rooting for her. Darcy Rhone is another fave… I didn’t want to read Something Blue when I found out that it was from her POV but Emily Giffin did a great job of taking an unlikable character and making you like her.