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Secrets to a likeable character.

When I see the rule scattered across the blogosphere not to create an unlikeable character,

I pause.

Is this one of those rules that can be misleading to a newer writer? (Because there were plenty that threw me when I was starting off.) An unlikeable character to me is someone I don’t care about. Not someone who is mean.

A likeable character:

  • Does not always mean sweet, innocent, or moral. (Boring!)
  • Does not mean everyone in the story must like them. (No conflict!)
  • Does not mean they have to make morally right decisions.
  • Does not mean they are polite and respectful to their parents.
  • In fact, they could even be kind of obnoxious and mean to their peers. (Ramona, anyone?)
  • And seriously, it doesn’t mean they have to be the outcast. (Though I suppose that’s the easy way to manipulate your reader into liking them.)
  • It doesn’t mean they have to be the one being bullied and mistreated.

In fact, when done well, some of my favorite characters started off kind of like the bad guy. (I heart villains!)

Secrets to creating a likeable character:

  • Create a thought life that connects the reader to the character. Major subtext needed.
  • Make the reader care about the character even if he’s still rough around the edges.
  • Show a home life or life outside of his/her peers that explains why a character is acting unlikeable. (Get straight to the heart.)
  • When no one is looking, show the soft side. Have him a save a cat or something like that.
  • Show all the areas where this character could grow.
  • Show the why behind the character’s unlikeable actions.
  • Give him a goal that will force this unlikeable character to change.
  • The most unlikeable character to me is the boring character. But show some juicy internal conflict and I’m all yours!

Any other tips? Any unlikeable likeable characters come to mind?

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