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Unsympathetic Protagonist

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I'm looking for suggestions on unsympathetic protagonists in middle grade novels.

I have an idea for a character with a hard shell but is conflicted internally.  I'm struggling with how to make him where folks want to pull from him starting on page one.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.  Thanks.
#1 - November 04, 2019, 08:37 PM

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Think of a way to show the good heart underneath the gruff exterior. Like, he protects a young neighbor from trouble (a bully, a parent?) or helps an animal, or is helpful to his disabled grandparent, or SOMEBODY.  It doesn't need to be much, but you're right, it needs to be clear that he has a soft spot from the very beginning!

Good luck!!
#2 - November 05, 2019, 04:58 AM
« Last Edit: November 05, 2019, 05:04 AM by Mrs. Jones »
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More subtle might be better. He doesn't protect the friend/neighbour but then fixes something broken in the scuffle.

What's your opening scene like now?
#3 - November 05, 2019, 05:21 AM

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The reader needs to be able to see potential. Does he see himself as a negative character? Or does he think of himself as a good guy? We need to get inside his head a bit, even if the other characters don't.

I watched a show once where one of the main characters was gruff and unfriendly at the beginning. Over the course of the show he had a dramatic character arc and became much happier and nicer. But all the time, I found myself cheering him on. Why? Because early on, they showed a flashback of him being unusually kind to someone who was being picked on at school. This kindness made this person have neverending loyalty towards him. Most people didn't know about it, most people were put off by his unsympathetic behavior. But the viewer knew what was in him, and so was eager to stick with him and see how it all played out.
#4 - November 05, 2019, 06:38 AM

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#5 - November 05, 2019, 08:14 AM
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Who loves him and why? Who does he love and why? One of these alone can be enough. Even if it's just his dog who loves him, unless the dog is also abused by him. Old sitcoms did this a lot. Fred Sanford, Archie Bunker. These men bordered on mean, but you knew they loved the families who loved them despite their faults. 
#6 - November 05, 2019, 06:29 PM
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+1

Also Bradley Chalkers in "There's a boy in the girls' bathroom"...
"Harriet the Spy" too but speaking with my nieces who recently read it they had the same opinion I did (the main character is too cruel).

In movies, "As Good As it Gets" is a perfect example. MC's charm and taking care of the dog provides some empathy on a rather caustic character.
#7 - November 06, 2019, 12:24 AM

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I was just going to say what others have said, Be careful you don't cross certain lines. I can't say what those lines are without reading your story, but there is a difference between being a jerk or a brat and being deliberately, viciously cruel - especially in an MG. Kids have a highly developed sense of fairness and will expect some serious consequences for serious misdeeds.
#8 - November 06, 2019, 03:34 PM

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