In Praise of Unlikeable Characters with Cliff Garstang
March 11, 7:00 p.m.
In Praise of Unlikeable Characters: Life’s Not Perfect and Neither is Fiction / Clifford Garstang
Some critics and teachers of fiction maintain that protagonists must be likeable. If readers don’t like the character, this argument goes, how can they relate? How can they even begin to care what happens to that character? But likeable is, sometimes, boring. What readers really want is characters who are interesting. We all have flaws, so we can probably relate better to a character with flaws. In this seminar, we’ll talk about creating realistic characters with realistic flaws—people who may not be likeable but who nonetheless make readers care about them. We’ll look at examples from literature, from Shakespeare to Elizabeth Strout to see how these authors presented flawed characters without sacrificing their humanity or relatableness. We’ll also talk about characters in my latest story collection, House of the Ancients and Other Stories, in which characters who behave badly may still earn the reader’s sympathy. We’ll conclude with some suggestions for reading and also some writing exercises to do on your own. Clifford Garstang is the author of a novel, The Shaman of Turtle Valley, and two collections of short stories, In an Uncharted Country and What the Zhang Boys Know, which won the Library of Virginia Literary Award for Fiction. His new short story collection, House of the Ancients and Other Stories, was published by Press 53 in May 2020. He was editor of the three-volume anthology series, Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, and is co-founder and past managing editor of Prime Number Magazine.
Your ticket purchases access to Cliff's workshop and a copy of one of his books.
For information about the full series, click here.