For The Great Blogging Experiment, I thought I would focus my post on a character study - characters you love to hate, hate to love, but still can't get enough of. (That sort of rhymes! But not on purpose.) These characters are mean, but funny. They're jerks but they still make you swoon. This kind of dichotomy of character is one of the best ways to get something compelling, to show the deeper layers of a character and prove that there's a lot more to them than what the other characters in the book (or TV show, cause I have one of those) initially see.
Shana Silver (who hosts Veronica Mars discussions on her blog) encouraged me to watch the show, and she kept talking about how great Logan was, how he was so swoon-worthy (not to mention that Veronica Mars has killer writing and plot development). So when I saw that Veronica Mars was available to stream instantly on Netflix, I watched. I waited. I waited to like Logan. Episode after episode went by, and though I immediately saw the sheer genius in the writing, I thought Logan sucked. He was a JERK. He had few redeeming qualities and I couldn't figure out what was so great about him. Then something very specific happens in one episode, which I can't mention because I'm not the kind of girl who posts spoilers on her blog. (But it's this thing. And then this happens. Yeah.) Then I sent Shana a tweet along the lines of OMG AWESOME YOU WERE RIGHT I BOW TO YOU. (Paraphrasing there.) Anyway, Logan is an ass most of the time. Even after he softens up, he's STILL an ass. But he's so complicated and twisty and has this dark past and he gets drunk and says the world's most romantic speeches and you just can't help but love him. Even when he's being a jerk.
2. Parker Fadley: Parker is the main character in Courtney Summers' debut CRACKED UP TO BE. I think Summers is really good at writing the kind of character I'm talking about here - the mean girl that you still like. Parker is a jerk to everyone around her. She pushes everyone away, she alienates herself, she does things that she knows will hurt other people. And yet...she cracked me up. I loved Parker almost immediately because she was so funny. Yeah, she used her humor to make fun of other people, and of course that's mean...but it was true, too. And it was great. And I could see that she was tortured, too, which obviously important to the overall mystery in the book.
3. Samantha Kingston: Sam is another mean girl that I loved. In BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver, we really got to see her be mean from day 1. She and her friends rule the school with their superior attitude, and although Sam occasionally seems to feel bad about it, she shakes it off pretty quickly. But after she dies and her days start repeating, Sam starts to change. She gets angry, then she gets nicer, then she grows up. She turns into this whole other person, someone who I could actually like. So even though I don't think I could like the Samantha at the beginning of the book, I think I would probably get along with the one at the end - maybe we'd even be friends.
4. Severus Snape. I can't talk about him without posting spoilers, so if you haven't finished the series, skip past this paragraph and get thee to a bookstore or library. I don't think there can possibly be a more perfect "love to hate" character in children's literature. I mostly just love Snape. But there is no question that he's a creepster. He's a jerk to the kids. Repeatedly. He openly displays favoritism to people in his house. He's mysterious and sneaky and he starts out as a bad guy. He betrays the Potters! He betrays Lily, the love of his life! But as soon as he realizes what he's done, he dedicates his life to fixing it. He worked so great as a character because we were all constantly questioning his motives - which side was he on? Who was he working for? I was a firm believer in Snape's innocence the whole time. But I had many friends who believed otherwise, especially after the whole killing Dumbledore thing. He sparked discussion and debate and loyalty. He was mean on the outside but in his heart, he was soft and did it all for love. He is a compelling character if ever one existed.
So, in all of these mean-girl (and boy) characters, what are the common threads that make them compelling? Growth. Humor. Mystery. Weakness. A complicated past. That's what it takes to create compelling characters.
Who are your favorite love-to-hate characters, and what is it about them that makes them so compelling?