“Unrelateable” Heroes: new coinage, old problem

Are we in a new era of word coinage?

Bill Morris, who publishes on-line at The Millions, thinks so. He offers “fracking,” “illliquid,” and “repurpose” among other coinages. In the following excerpt, “relateable” is a new coinage in the context of a story’s main character. It’s particularly relevant to writers concerned with how readers might respond to an “unsympathetic” (i.e., bad-ass) protagonist.



by Bill Morris

“Relateable – A character in a novel or movie who has qualities that readers or viewers can easily recognize, identify with, and embrace. It’s a barometer of our culture’s watery values when the highest praise for a fictional character is that he or she is familiar, unthreatening, and easy to like. It reduces novels and movies to the level of a high school popularity contest, and it goes a long way toward explaining why so few Americans travel to remote, exotic, difficult locales. What ever happened to the glories of the unfamiliar, the discomfiting, and the odious? I’m thinking specifically about John Self, the scabrous, lecherous, loathsome – and hilarious – protagonist of Martin Amis’s best novel, Money [a Suicide Note]. He’s loveable precisely because he’s so…I hate to say it…he’s so gloriously unrelateable.”

The full article is interesting and funny, not too long, and worth a tumble.

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