Unsympathetic characters

A friend of mine recommended I check out "Nurse Jackie"; we like a lot of the same shows so I added it to the Netflix queue. I watched the first disc last week and we had a discussion about whether we could actually like the main character.

I don't think it's too much of a spoiler if you've never seen the show to say that she's a nurse with a prescription drug addiction. In the first few episodes you see her doing "Scrubs"-like activities (standing up to bad doctors, finagling extras for patients--just trying to make a difference) and also trysting with the hospital pharmacist. In between, she's taking drugs in every possible form.

Through all that, I didn't exactly identify with her but I did have sympathy for where she was coming from (high-stress job with impossible hours, along with severe back pain). That is, until she goes off shift and heads home . . .to a husband and two little girls.

That cast a whole new light on her relationship with the pharmacist for me: was she screwing him just for the drug access? How can she possibly reconcile the "work Jackie" with "home Jackie"? It was so off-putting that we had to think about whether we were going to keep watching. There are some real laugh-out-loud lines in the show, good writing, so we'll give it another chance.

But it made me think of the line between an unsympathetic character and a villain. I've posted my prologue that features a mean schoolteacher, and I've been surprised at how much of a reaction she's stirred up. Miss Bonney is a fairly minor character in my mind, but she's definitely a villain.

I also have my MC abandoned by her traveling companion, and I had a hard time striking a balance with Mrs. Jensen. She's a charming woman and Isabelle genuinely likes her, so how is this woman able to just walk away when Isabelle is left penniless? Mrs. J is definitely a pragmatist above all, but she's also ended up being kind of a Dickensian character.

Anybody else have trouble finding that fine line between a well-rounded character and one whose flaws outnumber their virtues?


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