Charlotte’s most recent note about her writing asks the question “Why do I want my characters to be likeable?” Her implication is bang on the button; it is the weaker writers who create people made entirely of candyfloss or people who are all irredeemably shits. This is probably why there is such a demand for second-rate writing: it makes such comforting reading.
Treating others with decency and respect regardless of whether or not you actually like them should be one of the signs of adulthood, but very few adults can manage it. It’s core to both Buddhism (think of the Metta Bhavna) and Christianity (Luke 10:26-28).
Being kind to people simply because they are people regardless of whether or not you like them is hard. Sometimes just behaving with common decency is difficult, let alone kindness. So it’s a self-discipline that I struggle with, but it is one that I try to practice. I work on the rather patronising principle that life is hard enough for nasty people without me being unpleasant to them. And very few of us can help being shits: I’m addicted to sarcasm myself, which can make me unexpectedly unpleasant.
So I try to take the socialist maxim of ‘to each according to his need’ rather than the Tory principle of whether or not someone is ‘one of us’. It’s hard though, and it would be a lot easier if there were a recording angel somewhere.