R208. I’m Just Not That Into You: Unsympathetic Characters in Fiction

Room 612, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6
Thursday, February 27, 2014
1:30 pm to 2:45 pm


American readers, workshops, and editors are often partial to sympathetic characters, but where does that leave contemporary Humbert Humberts and Anna Kareninas? A panel consisting of writers, editors, and an agent will address likeability in fiction. Is it crucial that our characters be sympathetic? Do we expect more likeable characters in fiction written by female rather than male writers? How does an agent approach the submission process if the novel’s protagonist is deemed unsympathetic?



Irina Reyn is the author of the novel, What Happened to Anna K, and the anthology, Living on the Edge of the World: New Jersey Writers Take on the Garden State. She teaches creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

Hannah Tinti is co-founder and editor-in-chief of One Story and the author of Animal Crackers and The Good Thief. She teaches creative writing at Columbia University's MFA program and the Museum of Natural History. In 2011, she joined the public radio program "Selected Shorts" as their literary commentator.

Lynne Sharon Schwartz is a novelist, essayist, poet, and translator from Italian. Her latest books are Two-Part Inventions, a novel, and See You in the Dark, a poetry collection. She teaches in the Bennington Writing Seminars and at Columbia University.

Ryan D. Harbage is an agent at The Fischer-Harbage Agency. His clients include award-winning and bestselling authors such as Aliya King, Edward Klein, Taylor Plimpton, Robbie Robertson, p.g. sturges, Amy Sullivan, Jackson Taylor, and Thad Ziolkowski. He teaches at Pratt and The New School.

Maud Newton won the Narrative Prize for "When the Flock Changed," an excerpt from her novel-in-progress. She has written for the New York Times magazine, Narrative, Granta, Tin House, Bookforum, Awl, Paris Review Daily, The Los Angeles Times, and New York Times Book Review.


February 7–10, 2024
Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City Convention Center