I Hate That Guy: Crafting Likable Characters

Even despicable characters need to be lovable.

post by Michelle Griep

I love sarcasm. Give me a character who’s snappy and snippy with their dialogue and bam…instant like fest. So it surprises me when snarky characters aren’t always well loved. What’s the deal?

Well…apparently I’m in the minority. Sarcasm doesn’t head the list of likable traits. So what does?

Top 3 Ingredients of Crafting an Endearing Character

Admirable motivations.

Even if your protagonist resorts to doing something naughty, give him an empathetic reason for doing so. Maybe he’s trying to protect a more vulnerable character, or perhaps he’s trying to hide a potentially debilitating flaw. A reader must feel that the mean justifies the end.

Show him capable of love.

No matter how self-centered your character may be, how vile or criminally minded, the teddy bear factor must be present. Give the character a pet, a younger sibling, or something else cute and cuddly to love.

Vulnerable vs Capable

Too much vulnerability makes your character a wuss. Over the top confidence labels him as snooty. The ironic thing is that you should have a blend of both in your protag . . . and also in your villain. No one is all bad or all good. To make a believable, relatable character, you need to include both.

For further reading on character development, I recommend Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. It’s really a book about how to write screenplays but one that every fiction writer should have on their shelf — especially if you struggle with connecting your characters to your reader. And honestly, who doesn’t wrestle with that?

Like what you read? There’s more. WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest.