So, I’m curious. You’re reading along, and the protagonist of the story keeps on making poor choices, and doing/saying things that leave you going “What?” How long before you lose sympathy with him (or her) completely and toss the book? What kinds of attitudes, actions, etc. cause you to dislike a protagonist, who, while not perfect, is meant to be likable?
I think for me, the thing that turns me off is stupidity without reason. In life, people make wrong choices, but they always do it for a reason. Characters that just can’t get a grasp on reality are so frustrating. I honestly don’t care how many bad choices a character makes, as long as I can understand why it happened. Why it matters to them, and to me.
I’d lose interest and sympathy in a protagonist if he keeps making bad decision time after time. But a huge factor would be how bad the decisions are, and how often he makes them. Say there’s something he needs to choose between, and he makes the obviously bad choice and then keeps doing that repeatedly, I’d get tired of him pretty quickly. I think it would be better if he makes bad decisions sometimes, but it would just get old if they are super obvious and he still chooses the wrong thing. So I suppose just make the options not quite so distinctly bad/good, so that the reader feels more sympathy even if he does choose the wrong thing. Did that help any? Sorta just became a ramble, but hopefully that helped. 😛
Even the smallest person can change the course of the future. -JRR Tolkien
This is a really cool question! I agree with what others have said, but for me the main factor is whether the character is growing from his stupid decisions. Is he just doing the same thing again and again with no hint of him ever learning to do better? If there’s no indication of future growth and change, then I would give up on a character pretty quickly.
"Beauty will save the world." - Dostoevsky