I've come across a problem with one of the main characters in my book. The "heroine" of my story starts out as an apathetic self-absorbed hacker, who seeks adrenaline thrills to find meaning in her life. With that in mind, I tried to show this kind of outlook is not evil, but neutral instead (the theory that all humans are self-interested). To make a point that she's not evil, I've shown that she refuses to cause physical harm to anyone, and won't work with a hacker organization that kills people. At the same time though, she didn't care about their agenda to expose a company that exploited child workers, because it doesn't affect her at all.
Here's a little exchange she has with another hacker, whom she helped to expose a corrupt organization (The MC is Joyce, aka Banshee_Harvest)
Banshee_Harvest: The infiltration went without a hitch, I managed to copy their entire database onto my hard drive. I’ve sifted through the code too, you were right. They were exploiting children for labor.
G00fy: That’s what I thought. I’m impressed Banshee, the TLF were ready to sift through that code with you. I’m glad that it ended up being so easy. It’s just another domino in the effort to free the people of these corrupt corporate executives.
Banshee_Harvest: Save your preaching for someone who actually cares. I was in this solely for the thrills. I’m uploading the files now #2_files_attached (New_labor_contract.pdf, Redacted_labor_contract_CONFIDENTIAL.pdf)
Banshee_Harvest: I’ll send the rest of the content if you’d like that, but I think that’ll be enough.
G00fy: Aren’t you the one who is always complaining that they need a cause to join? What’s so bad about the TLF?
Joyce swiveled in her chair, tucking her legs in, remembering the uneasiness she felt earlier.
Banshee_Harvest: I don’t like the rumors about you guys. You’re not afraid to hurt people to get what you want. And I don’t want to end up on that side of the fence. The ends don’t always justify the means.
G00fy: Lol, yet here you are, working as one of the most profitable hackers in the country, if not the world.
Banshee_Harvest: I don’t throw people under the bus to get what I need. You do.
G00fy: Listen, we do what we have to, no more, no less. The sacrifice of the few, or the one is for the good of the many, am I right?
Banshee_Harvest: Don’t try to push your fascist beliefs on me, I’ve heard about what you’ve guys done.
G00fy: We’re only trying to help. And I do mean that.
Joyce sighed in frustration. G00fy could be annoying at times. She didn’t want to join them. This was a one-time thing, and she meant it.
Banshee_Harvest: As I’ve told you many times before, NOT INTERESTED!
G00fy: Okay, you don’t have to shout. Thanks for your help, btw.
Banshee_Harvest: Np. However, there is the matter of paying me still. I think I should negotiate my price considering all that I was able to do, don’t you agree?
G00fy: I’ll have to talk with the other members about that, but you did agree to a 25 bitcoin price, which is a fair sum of money.
Banshee_Harvest: But I think, with all that I’ve done here, I do deserve a 5 bitcoin bonus, don’t you agree?
G00fy: That’s pretty hefty, like more than I can vouch for at least. Like I said, I’ll have to talk to the others about this. Thanks for your help though. The 25 should have already been sent to your account.
One of my reader's described Joyce (Banshee_Harvest) like this, "I'm hating Joyce right now. Her character is contradictory. She's selfish and a criminal. And she deserves to be in jail. Plus she's apathetic and arrogant and I don't see any redeeming qualities to her. So if I'm supposed to feel this way, you've succeeded. But I don't think I want to live with her as the protagonist of this book. I'll just want to keep shooting her in the head."
The purpose of this novel is to show her transformation from someone who is chaotic neutral to lawful good. However, I can't begin that transformation if my readers hate my character. How can I portray a chaotic neutral character as sympathetic and avoid making them seem evil? Or how can I make a selfish character relatable?
I understand that morals can be ambiguous, but it's important that my readers can at least relate to this character so they give her a chance. However, my character is really self-absorbed (she really doesn't have anything driving her other than thrill and money: at least at first.)