by Julie, prepping for the 4th in Somerville
I am delighted to welcome Lori Roberts Herbst to the blog today. Lori serves on the Sisters in Crime board, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her this past year. She’s also a wonderful writer, and I can’t wait for you to learn more about her protagonist, Callie Cassidy.
Truth is, I don’t find perfect people too interesting—though to be fair, I’ve never known any.
Nor do I care for the righteous, holier-than-thou types.
And don’t bother me with a syrupy sweet goody goody who can do no wrong.
I like ‘em flawed and funny and smart. And apparently, so do most of us.
Authors, and especially series writers, understand the importance of a “likable” protagonist. If readers are going to continue to follow a character through a number of books, they have to feel an affinity for the person and a desire to spend time with her. But what exactly defines “likability”? For me, at least, it’s not what you might think…
Here are a few examples. One of my all-time favorite TV characters is Dr. Gregory House, played brilliantly by Hugh Laurie. The character’s arrogance is boundless, as is his self-absorption. He verbally bludgeons employees and rarely exhibits kindness or compassion. At first glance—and even under deeper scrutiny—the man appears to be the antithesis of likability.
But we do grow to like him. We admire his intelligence, his skill, his abilities, and the fact that he uses those talents for good instead of evil. We enjoy his acerbic wit. And though he doesn’t display it in an obvious way, House is loyal to people he cares about. A brief scene every so often convinces us that beating within that tortured soul is a good heart, and we stick with him in anticipation of its continuing emergence. (Side note: Did you know House is the medical mirror image of Sherlock Holmes? Until recently, I didn’t, but in hindsight, it’s obvious. House/Holmes. Wilson/Watson. Keen powers of deduction. Drug addiction. Residence at 221B Baker Street. Face palm. How did I miss these connections?)
I’ve also fallen in love with Lucas Davenport, the protagonist of John Sandford’s Prey series. Though Lucas softens emotionally as the series progresses, he is a fundamentally aggressive vigilante cop who believes the end is more important than the means. But the “end” always occurs in the service of justice, so readers can support him when he takes the law into his own hands. Plus, the man is witty and charming. What’s not to love?
Same with Sue Grafton’s private eye Kinsey Millhone. We admire her intelligence, her cleverness, her loyalty—and her quirks. She is far from perfect, far from sweet, and a bit damaged by her past. But she strives for insight, and she journeys toward what is right, good, and fair.
When I consider the real world, it’s much the same. The people I’m drawn to exhibit depth, eccentricity, and passion. Though I would cringe if they went around killing criminals in the name of justice, I can sense that potential in many of them (you know who you are). I like them not because they’re perfect, but because they’re always trying to be better. And they have a sense of humor. For me, that’s critical.
Following my analysis of likability, I re-examined the protagonist of my own Callie Cassidy Mysteries. I’m pleased to say, I believe she fits the bill. I find her tenacious, humorous, flawed, and interesting. She has made—and continues to make—mistakes, but she owns them and strives for personal growth. She is a cynical optimist, an outgoing introvert, a hard worker, a fun person. Her friends and family rally around her and genuinely like her. As do I.
And I hope readers like her, too.
How do you define likability in characters? Who are some of your favorites?
Readers, the first book in the series, SUITABLE FOR FRAMING, is an Amazon 99 cent daily deal Monday, July 3!
ABOUT THE BOOK
Wedding bells are ringing in Rock Creek Village. But when a venomous villager crashes the nuptials, events take a toxic turn…
The long-awaited day has arrived—Callie Cassidy’s best friend is tying the knot. The wedding is perfect—even Callie’s golden retriever and her tabby cat have donned tuxes for the occasion. Callie’s trainee is documenting every moment, with the help of twin brother. Then an uninvited visitor barges in—the twins’ absentee father—and an angry altercation ensues. When their father later winds up in a coma, the victim of poisoning, suspicion mounts against the twins. With detectives stonewalling her, Callie turns for help to her family and friends. Together, can they prove the twins’ innocence—and reveal the true culprit?
Buy link: Amazon
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Silver Falchion and CIBA Murder & Mayhem award-winning author Lori Roberts Herbst writes the Callie Cassidy Mystery series. A former journalism teacher, Lori serves as Board Secretary for Sisters in Crime. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, as well as the SinC North Dallas chapter and the Guppy chapter, where she moderates the Cozy Gup group. Lori lives in Dallas, Texas. Find out more at