Qualities that I don't like in fictional characters (a.k.a. instant turn-offs):
Characters with impossible fantasy names.
Did the author just throw some random letters together, or is that actually supposed to sound like a name? Like the Wheel of Time series. I'm sure "Aes Sedai" sounds pretty in Robert Jordan's head, but did you ever know how to pronounce it?
Anna and the Duke. Victoria and the Pirate. Lucille and the Cowboy.
Okay...I promise I won't rant. I did have a love affair with those cheap-o Harlequin romance novels (NOT the raunchy ones! The clean ones!) when I was in high school. But. These women are ridiculous. They ARE the princess-in-a-tower, oh-please-save-me, I'm-helpless-without-you stereotype of women that bugs the crap out of me. Puh-leez. Think for yourself.
Moody frown face.
I'm thinking Harry Potter here. I love those books, but Harry is the angsty-est, moodiest character ever. I understand that fighting Voldemort is a very emotional process, but his mood swings do get annoying. I prefer *relative* emotional stability.
Qualities I do like in fictional characters (a.k.a instant turn-ons):
Can't resist 'em. I love characters like Heathcliff: towering Byronic heroes with hush-hush pasts who soar high and fall hard. The forbidden romance element always gets me, too.
Bill Bergson, the hero of Astrid Lindgren's master detective series, is the typical underdog. About 12 years old, he dreams about being a master detective, but he's the laughingstock of the local police. Even his friends laugh at him: there's no criminal action in their sleepy Swedish town. But Bill, the underdog of all underdogs, seems to have a detective brain after all, or at least that's what the local police must concede when he brings down the jewel-thief ring that's been evading the law for months. Go Bill!!!!!
Edmund in Chronicles of Narnia is my favorite example of this. He starts out pretty bad: he almost sells his siblings to the White Witch, and then Aslan has to die to save his life. But even though Edmund stumbles hard, he learns from his mistakes. Remember the Edmund of Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader? Heart of gold. Pure. gold. He's brave and kind and brilliant, and loves Aslan like nothing else. Gotta love character development like that.
This is a delicate balance. I can't stand heroes who not only know everything, but take huge pride in their knowing everything. This usually results in annoying self-reliance, self-centeredness, and individualism: "I don't need you because I am BRILLIANT." Namely the stars of Alistair McLean novels, which I actually do love, but the heroes are sooooooo badass and know-it-all that it gets old. However, I do like hardcore heroes like Katniss from The Hunger Games. She knows everything. She can hunt, cook, fight, survive, think on her feet, and look gorgeous all at the same time. Everyone loves her, too. But she doesn't shove her know-it-all in the reader's face. She's humbly self-reliant. She knows her strengths and limits: and they're tested big-time along her journey.
What qualities do you find attractive in fictional characters? Which ones turn you off? Which ones make you cheer on the character from beginning to end?