Flash Fiction Challenge: The Unlikable Protagonist

Last week’s challenge — “One Small Story In Seven Acts” — is deserving of your penetrating stare.

Next week, I’ve got a post queued up about protagonists.

And, in one portion of this post, I discuss the power of the unlikable protagonist.

The balance is writing an unlikable protagonist that still remains compelling — we still find some reason to keep reading, and we may even find empathy or sympathy with that character.

Even if we don’t want to “go out and get a beer with him.”

So, that’s your task.

You’ve got up to 1000 words to write a tale featuring an unlikable protagonist that still remains readable and compelling. Having this as a flash fiction challenge offers up one bonus and one disadvantage: the disadvantage is that you won’t have more than those one thousand words to establish the complexities an unlikable protagonist might need. The bonus, however, is that flash fiction is short — you can get away with a lot more because you’re not expecting that the reader will have to hang with your story for 300 pages.

Get to it, ink-slingers.

One week is all you’ve got. Challenge ends at noon EST on Friday the 17th. The drill is the same: post your story somewhere on the web, link back here in the comments so that we can all come and read.

65 responses to “Flash Fiction Challenge: The Unlikable Protagonist”

  1. Working on this, it’s a good challenge to somehow make the protagonist unlike-able, yet still the good guy. Was hoping for a Valentine’s theme, since have started a story like that. Just adds to the challenge.

  2. I cheated a little in that I revamped the beginning of a WIP that was already dealing with The Unlikable Protagonist. You feel for Miranda Dabrowski, but she is one evil bitch.

    Enjoy. Thanks again for the kick in the pants.


  3. Jim Franklin–I tried to post this comment on your website, but couldn’t. It kept telling me to type in the password, even though I had already. Anyway:

    Oh, this is great. I was definitely surprised at the end, and I love your MC’s last line.

    Very well done.

  4. […] character the protagonist. I think I can handle that. To read more, go spend some time over here: Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Unlikable Protagonist But also, while you’re here, go read my story from the challenge from two weeks ago, where we […]

  5. I know the universe doesn’t revolve around me specifically, but it has to be pretty close to here. When Chuck comes up with a challenge like this, I feel like he is thinking, “Let’s make one that’s easy for Bryan.” I wrote this in not quite an hour.
    Hey, Joe
    I don’t even want to think about how easy it is for me to create a character like this, and how that is somehow a reflection on me.

  6. This probably wasn’t exactly what was intended. My current work-in-progress novel has a central character (not the protagonist but still important in the story) who’s not someone I’d like to go for a beer with. If I had to work with him, there would probably be blood by the end of the first week. But he’s incredibly fun to write.

    I took this challenge as a way of adding a bit to his background. This isn’t so much a story as a scene from his life.


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