What’s to like? – Gina Sorell

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By Gina Sorell

“But is she likeable?” I had someone ask me about my protagonist Elsie, in my debut novel Mothers and Other Strangers, when I first pitched them on the idea of a depressed and troubled woman looking for answers after her estranged mother dies.

Likeable? Well, she’s smart and talented, sensitive, with a dark sense of humor, a survivor of her painful childhood and broken marriage. She pretty much raised herself, and yet is determined to understand how and why, her mother became the glamorous and cold narcissist that she was. Elsie’s amazing. She perseveres in the face of cruelty, disappointment, and heartbreak. She struggles to fill in the missing pieces of her life, hoping that the answers she finds will give her peace and the chance for happiness that she once knew. She’s damaged goods for sure, but she also has hope.

Mothers and Other Strangers FinalLikeable. It was to me the least interesting quality I could give her. I didn’t care if Elsie was charming or got along well with others, I wanted her to be a good person, not a popular person. I wanted her to be shaped by her life, and not apologize for it. I wanted her flawed and human and real.

Likeable. How could she be anything but? Who wouldn’t like a woman who given the chance to bury her painful relationship with her mother when she dies, chooses to embark on a journey that while emotionally dangerous, could lead her closer to the truth? I didn’t know.

I for one don’t want to read about perfect people living perfect lives, I don’t think many of us do. And I certainly don’t want to write about them. I want to write about the people who survived and persevered and triumphed over their hardships, broken hearts, and disappointments.

I want them to find beauty and meaning in picking up the pieces and cobbling together their own way of moving forward. I want them to write and rewrite their own stories, and I want to help them while they do it. I don’t need my protagonist to be liked, but if she can be understood, if I can make the reader empathize with her, then no, they may not always like her, but they just might love her in the same way that we love one another, imperfections and all.

Born in South Africa and raised in Canada, Gina Sorell now resides in Toronto. After two decades as a working actor of stage and screen in NYC, LA, and Toronto, Gina decided to return to her first love–writing, and graduated with distinction from UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Gina likes to balance out the long solitary hours of novel writing, with her work as a Creative Director of Eat My Words, a SF-based branding firm, where she collaborates all day long with innovators and entrepreneurs whose identity she establishes with only one word, their name.


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