In fiction, as in life, there are those characters we love to hate. Take Julia Stiles's character in Ten Things I Hate About You;Kat is a raging bitch, to put it nicely. She has a chip on her shoulder, and she finds joy in shocking others--the girl who hates rather than loves, the girl who calls people out publicly on their bullshit just to watch them squirm. But despite snarky comebacks and bad decisions, both married with selfish tendencies, we also begin to fall for Stiles. We begin to feel for her.
The question is why?
Why and how can we feel for a woman who makes it her mission to feel nothing but contempt and anger? The easy answer comes in the hero. Ledger's character, Patrick, brings out not just the snarky but snuggly side of Kat. His responses to her bad-tempered statements make us like him, and sometimes even her. The complicated answer comes in the form of motivation. Why does Kat--Stiles--act the way she does? And can we understand her? One further: can we relate to her?
Currently, I'm writing a heroine who is kind of an asshole. More than that, she takes great strides to feel nothing for anyone. Motivation...it's tricky because it's not as understandable as having her heart broken, the loss of a loved one, or being bullied. It's both more and less than those.
When our character, like our real life people, feels fear, oftentimes this fear can be something that's insignificant to those around them, like fear of failure, but so great inside. Cameron--CC, my character--she fears judgement from others. She fears struggle and failure, and having people expect things from her that she can never, ever give them. All of this fear has caused her to be caustic with people, and careless with herself. She lacks the ability and strength to communicate her fears, and her desires, mostly because she doesn't really understand them herself. Like many teenagers, she can't see beyond her own feelings.
This makes her selfish.
It also makes her a little unlikable.
But my hero likes her, even when he hates her. And I like her...because she's not perfect, and sometimes, she's not even likable. She's real-life.