Loved all of your comments and feedback on yesterday's post On Unlikeable Characters.
As I worked on my revisions yesterday which included getting chapter one 75% right (which sounds bad but is actually a major victory), I realized another benefit to having written my MC as unlikeable in draft one.
It allowed tension to flow through the entire chapter. And you all know how important it is to have tension in every scene--especially opening scenes.
See, my main character completely disagrees with a major decision her family just made. She hates the choice, she doubts it, she dislikes it. She is completely negative about it. And when I wrote draft one--this is all on the surface (and part of what made her so unlikeable).
But...as I revised and covered up most of her doubt and dislike (including deleting any lines where she outright stated her thoughts), I can still feel the underlying disagreement, just below the surface. It's not explicit or in your face. But it's there and it adds in tension as well as agency for my character (the only thing I like less than flat characters are the ones who are passive and lack agency).
She isn't just passively accepting the choice that's been made. She is actively partaking in it--trying to go along with things while dealing with her feelings and plotting how best to proceed when she disagrees so strongly. It sets her up right away to be a strong character and also allowed me to find a nice middle ground for her personality.
She isn't passive and just being taken along on her journey.
But, she isn't so negative about it that she's hard to read.
So that's my latest about why I love starting with unlikeable characters. Not only will it help you understand the core of their being, but it also adds tension to everything they do. You know deep down inside there are so many more things going on then what's written on the surface.
What about you guys? How do you bring in tension for your characters?