1. SoulGalaxyWolf

    SoulGalaxyWolf Active Member

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    Likable characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by SoulGalaxyWolf, Nov 11, 2016.

    I'm writing a story on Wattpad, a short story. I had some views and I asked my brother to read it too. He informed me the character wasn't really likable and that he liked another character that was giving my MC a hard time much better.
    How do you make a likable character? What are characters that you like and why? How do you show more into a character by just them doing something? How do you go about making a good, complicated character that the reader can't help but love? Like Lucifer from Supernatural or Moriarty in Sherlock?
    Just thinking about trying to make my character likable at the same time trying not to change her completely is shutting down my brain.
     
  2. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    Short answer: You make your character someone that your reader envies--someone your audience wishes they could be like. You make their personal beliefs line up with the beliefs of your intended audience, and you re-affirm in your audience, through your character, that their beliefs are valid.

    Long Answer: Courage. Courage to attempt and control their personal reality. That's what a character needs, and that's, for the most part, what I'd argue people want to read about. In order to make a likable character, you first have to decide WHO you want to like your character. No two audiences will like the same exact things, and wanting to please everyone is a sure way not to please anyone. That isn't a bad thing. As a writer, we have to make choices, and your first one is: who is the story for. Is it for you? Then who cares if anyone likes your character but you? Is it for other people? Then chose which audience you want to appeal to and forge a character that matches up with their likes and interests.

    Ideally, it'll be an amalgamation of those two things: because if you like something, in this wide, wide, world of ours, chances are someone else likes it, too. You shouldn't change a character you love to suit other people. You should, however, make sure that the character you have appeals to you, and the audience you want it to appeal to, as much as possible.

    So how do you make a character you like, and one that's likable to other people? You create one that simulates the desires of your audience: as mentioned before, someone who your Reader envies. Someone your reader wishes they could be. That will make them want to follow your character on her journey. You give your character goals, ambitions, desires, make them want the impossible: because your reader wishes they could want the impossible, too. They're just too bogged down with reality. So it comes full circle, down to courage. Your character, to be likable, has to have the courage to face their fears, face danger, face disaster, face temptation, and come out in one piece. They have to have the courage to face the impossible and--not necessarily succeed--but say they tried.

    How do you go about making a character complicated? The best word for it is accretion. It's a long process, and if I said it could be done in a day or a week, I'd be lying. I wrote a book for myself, once. I got all the way through it, 130k words before the trim, and after it was all done I went back and fleshed out each of the characters into their own unique rolls and made sure they filled them. It took a year. And I'm still not done.

    As for a character I like: Dante from Devil May Cry. Why I like him? I wish, that in the face of adversity, I could be as calm and cool as he is. I envy him.
     
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  3. PilotMobius

    PilotMobius Active Member

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    The core ideas behind the character must be relatable for them to be likeable. The reader must be able to understand the character's motives to properly sympathize.
     
  4. G. Anderson

    G. Anderson Active Member

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    My answer to this may seem too simple but perhaps it can still be helpful:

    I like the characters that feel deep pain when they hurt others. That doesn't mean that the characters that I like do not hurt others. And it has to be felt more than 'oh, I wish I hadn't had to hurt so and so, but oh well...moving on'. But if they can feel prolonged pain for others, even those not closed to them, I will forgive them A LOT.

    By the way, I'm not a masochist who likes to see others in pain. :meh:
     
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  5. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

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    First, you can't please all the people. No characters are universally likable. There will always be those who find reasons not to like a character.

    Second, good characters don't always have to be likable. They just have to be good.

    But I think what brings readers and characters together is the reader's ability to care about the character, in whatever way they choose. I find the best way to evoke the reader's ability to care is to dig deep into that character and expose that depth to the reader. You ask how to "show more into the character"--essentially, don't just have them do things and say things. Have them reflect on what they're doing. Have them react to what's going on around them. Color the narrative with the character's thoughts and emotions--that'll help the reader get a better understanding of exactly who your character is, which will in turn draw the reader in.

    Typically, your characters will be relatable enough that readers will take to them. But as I said, not all good characters need to be likable. The reader just needs to be invested enough to care about what happens to them.

    Just my 2 cents.
     
  6. SoulGalaxyWolf

    SoulGalaxyWolf Active Member

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    This was really helpful to me, I appreciate your time writing all this ^-^ Encouraging and makes me think.
     
  7. SoulGalaxyWolf

    SoulGalaxyWolf Active Member

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    Thank you, this helps a lot.
     
  8. PilotMobius

    PilotMobius Active Member

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    The proper term for that is "sadist", not "masochist." Masochists enjoy receiving pain.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
  9. SoulGalaxyWolf

    SoulGalaxyWolf Active Member

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    That makes a lot of sense and it does help. I'm the same way. I don't really believe it makes me a sadist, but seeing the character exposed like that does make someone prone to sympathizing them and liking them more. In some cases depending on how the character goes about it lol.
     
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  10. G. Anderson

    G. Anderson Active Member

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    Great, and I just looked both terms up before posting to assure that I didn't switch them. Well, then I am probably more of a masochists than a sadist. Not that I classify as either.
     
  11. SoulGalaxyWolf

    SoulGalaxyWolf Active Member

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    This helps a lot and not only for the character itself but, mainly the storytelling. I have problems making my story interesting and I believe this part of the characters thoughts will help. Thank you very much ^-^
     
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  12. Dominique Parker

    Dominique Parker Member

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    Yeah I totally agree with this. If you can make me care about the well being of a character I'll usually end up liking them. I find that that this is usually the case regardless of whether or not they're relatable or whether or not they are "decent" people. I absolutely love Victarion Greyjoy for example and he is an awful person, all the man does is pillage and murder. I certainly can't relate with him. I haven't pillaged or murdered(yet) but, damn do I love reading about the guy.
     
  13. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Kindness. Especially to those who cannot profit them.
     
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  14. FanOfFigs

    FanOfFigs New Member

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    Don't go out to make them likeable. Make them realistic. Characters who you could drop into the real world and they would make something happen here, conflict or love or humour. Like Donald Trump, for example. People don't like him but he would make an excellent character in a book, because people want to see him fail or succeed. It creates interest.

    The character is good when the reader feels something strongly about them. Whether that be loving them, disliking them, wanting them to die, or whatever. I personally don't try to make characters that people will love or dislike, I put together characters that have enough personality, strengths, flaws in them, to make the reader form an opinion about the person.
     
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  15. Ebenezer Lux

    Ebenezer Lux Member

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    I definitely agree with the posts above. My two cents:

    A likable character can be as good as the hero who saves the day, or as evil as the guy manipulating everything behind the scenes. It comes down to the narrative voice and the actions the characters take. As the old saying goes "hate to love and love to hate;" which might seem like it applies to an unlikeable character, and in most cases it probably does, but it could also refer to a charismatic charmer. As a lot serial killers apparently are.

    The hero can be charming and/or relatable, therefore likable. The villain can the charming and/or relatable, therefore likeable.
     
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  16. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    Someone who takes actions with the "everything will just work out" mentality and isn't punished for it.

    That's very unlikeable.

    Villains who don't exploit the clear weaknesses in this mindset are frustrating too.
     
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  17. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    I like realistic characters that get hurt, plans don't always work out, get tired/etc. , and have depth and personality.
    Or the parody characters that are rich and funny. Though not every comical thing has to be on the nose. :p

    Somebody mentioned something about making the reader envious of the characters, which is kinda not a nice
    thing to do. But it is pretty simple all you have to do is have a character that lives the good life and is 'perfect'
    to the storyline, and their problems are more like hiccups than actual problems. Pretty much 2 out of the 3
    romances I have read would fall under this category of making one envious (and a bit too beaten over the head
    cliche).

    There is no clear definition of a likeable character that anyone will/can all agree upon, all you can do is write
    your own the way you want too and that is pretty much it. Obviously someone with say magical or special powers
    is not going to be as realistic as say a person that works a dead end job and is not all that happy as a result of it.
    But then again it takes all manner of imagination to invent scenarios that will complicate the hell out of your characters
    lives to keep the story interesting. A lot of things go into consideration such as do they have powers? What type of
    a universe do they live in? and on and on. Ultimately it comes down to how you write your characters as to whether
    they are likeable or not. (Also how would you know without hearing from an audience?)
     
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  18. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    One simple trick to making a character likeable ...give them a sense of humour. It's hard to resist liking somebody who makes you laugh on purpose, even if they are a 'baddie.'
     
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  19. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Characters don't have to be likable. There are tons of examples throughout literature of unlikable characters. In short stories, you are asking readers to spend less time with your characters. I think it's more than okay to construct a less-liked character. But I would ask your brother why he didn't like your character. Did he not like this character so much that he would have stopped reading if you weren't his sister?

    An easy way to make unlikable characters work is to show another side of them. The advice I've been given is "Give him a puppy." Even a stone-cold killer can show readers another side of him if he come home and take care of a three-legged dog or something like that. They are probably still not going to be a likable character, but some sort a redeeming quality can go a long way when it comes to how we, as readers, react to characters.
     
  20. terobi

    terobi Senior Member

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    Thing is, the characters that people love to read about don't need to be anything like the people that you'd like to hang out with, the people that you admire, wish you were more like, etc.

    In my current WIP, I have one character who is just an outright dick. Everything he does is self-serving, he has every single vice, he disrespects, belittles and antagonises everyone he meets...

    ...and all my alpha readers told me he's their favourite character. Not because they like him, they all think he's the biggest prick imaginable, but aside from that, he is hilarious. His internal monologue is pretty much exclusively him getting hammered and doing things purely to spite people, and for some reason (call it catharsis, call it pure impropriety, whatever) people really enjoy reading it.

    I'm sure there are many theories about why readers like characters, but them being lovely guys really doesn't make a difference.

    Edit to add: One of my alpha readers also absolutely detests a character who is more or less a paragon of virtue. She's naive, she supports every cause, she spends virtually all of her time volunteering and arguing in favour of good causes. I'm not changing her (hell, it's nice to have any kind of reaction to a character, it just shows they're distinct individuals), but it's funny how some folk react.
     
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  21. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Not to put the cat among the pigeons, but why is it, whenever a member asks how to make a character likable, so many people jump in and insist it's okay to make one's protagonist a jerk? It's happened on other threads besides this one. Are we that afraid of positive MCs?

    Now, if @SoulGalaxyWolf is asking only due to pressure from her brother, that might be different. But if she agrees with what her brother has said and really wants to make her MC more likable, why can't we help her do that?
     
  22. terobi

    terobi Senior Member

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    I suppose it's the simplest way of pointing out that whether or not an audience like your main character is based on more than them being a nice, friendly, personable fellow that they would like to spend time with.

    There are a few things here that might be going on, that may be diagnosable (but without reading your work, I can't really point to anything more specific):

    1) What some term the "villain problem" - if your protagonist is simply reacting to things that your villain is doing, what you end up with is a proactive villain with goals and motivation, and a reactive main character whose goal is entirely to try to maintain the status quo by getting in the villain's way. For most readers, this immediately makes your villain more interesting, and often therefore more enjoyable to read about, than your main character.

    2) That the main character is simply too nice. This is what I was getting at above when I mentioned that I have a character in my WIP who is a dedicated, morally upright crusader. People hate that, and it's very much in danger of sliding into Mary Sue territory. This can be fixed simply by giving your main character a bit of internal conflict, some flaws they're struggling with, so that they're not just being nice for the sake of being nice. Without a few character flaws and some internal conflict, you've got a flat character that people struggle to relate to or find interesting.

    3) Perhaps you've fallen into the trap of making your main character a blank avatar. A Bella Swan character whose entire personality is more or less blank, so that the reader can effectively map themselves onto her. This can be effective - with the right audience - but others may simply see through the ruse and notice that your character doesn't have much of a distinguishable personality. If you can't describe the basics of your character's personality (without referencing their job/role) in a few sentences, this might be your problem.
     
  23. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Wait a minute. I'm not the OP.
     
  24. terobi

    terobi Senior Member

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    I know, sorry - I was using "your" to mean people in general. I just dropped into the part of my brain that's used to academic language and discussion. Apologies for confusion.

    Edit: It would also be less confusing if I had quoted the OP's post too, since the remainder of the post after the first sentence or so was addressed to the room in general, but more specifically the OP.
     
  25. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    OK, no problem. But my question remains. Why are people so shy of making characters likable? It doesn't mean flawless, or "unco guid," or paragons of virtue. People like that can be uncomfortable to have around. It doesn't mean someone who's a blank slate--- what's in that to like? I mean, "Would you want to go out for a beer with this guy?" No harm, is there? in writing a character of whom a reader could say, "Yeah, I would, and I wouldn't have to worry about him cold-cocking me or leaving me to pay his tab."
     

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