Jun 18 2009

What Makes a Character Likable?

Published by at 7:38 am under Character Development,Writing Articles

Here are some of the things that can make a character likable.

  • A distinct personality, even if it’s sinister or abrasive. This is one of the reasons that Sylar (a serial killer) and Dr. House (a curmudgeonly asshat) are fan favorites.
  • Relationships. These are particularly important if the character is unrelatable.  If the character has a thought process that is really unusual to readers, we’ll probably get to know him through how he interacts with other people.  If an unusual character isn’t interacting with other people, readers probably won’t find him very interesting because they don’t know enough about him.
  • Competence. This is especially important for villains.  Readers usually love the villains that scare them, and competent villains are scary.   See Hannibal Lecter and Darth Vader.
  • Relatability. For example, in young adult fiction, the hero is usually a few years older than the readers (young enough to be relatable but old enough to be impressive).  Having an everyday job (or having once had an everyday job) can also help here.
  • Style. Most stylish characters are competent, a bit clever and witty.
  • A sense of humor. Obviously, not every story is a comedy, but even a bit of humor can make a character more likable.   For example, Han Solo only got a few lines like “we’re all fine here now, thank you,” but they were enough to establish his personality.
  • Flaws. Often, the flaws make a character more likable than his assets do.  Flaws are more unique and they tend to stand out more.  There are thousands of brave heroes, but what people remember about Captain Kirk and James Bond is that they’re recklessly brave.
  • Limit the complaining! Brooding, moping, crying and angst usually make the character sound whiny.  It’s really hard to like a character that whines, no matter how seriously awful his life is.
  • Proactivity. This is what distinguishes Sylar (a character dealing with a seriously hard life) from someone that complains about how hard his life is.  Readers would much rather see a character try to solve his problems than talk/complain about them.  This is one of the (many) reasons that Han and Luke are more likable than C3P0.
  • Good intentions for the villains. This is a useful way to add depth to the antagonists.
  • Variety. This is particularly important for the hero.  Give him opportunities to try different solutions and improvise.
  • Stark characterization. Please don’t make your characters “kind of an ass” or “sort of brave” or whatever.  Go big!  It’ll be more distinctive and interesting than a hero that just sort of does whatever is most convenient for the plot.  Also, it will raise the stakes and make the conflicts sharper.
  • Growth. Stagnant heroes are usually a bit boring.  If the hero’s quest doesn’t change him in some way, what’s the point?
  • Vulnerable. This is particularly important for the hero.  Ideally, he’s a bit less powerful than the villain and might actually lose.   That will force him to be intelligent and will leave readers on the edge of their seats.
  • Lone superheroes often benefit from interesting alternate identities. The alternate identity helps establish what’s at stake and makes the character feel real by giving him something to do besides beating people up.  Alter-egos are more challenging for superhero teams because there’s less time available for each character.
  • Context/justification. Some traits that might otherwise raise a lot of eyebrows might be forgivable or even endearing in the right context (e.g. extreme paranoia and being hyper-violent might be an issue in a police story but probably not in a zombie apocalypse or a DC fundraiser).

There are many more, I’m sure.  What am I missing?

55 responses so far

55 Responses to “What Makes a Character Likable?”

  1. Tomon 18 Jun 2009 at 9:18 am

    An explanation for ‘style’. Granted though the concept of ‘style’ is very hard to pin down, like the definion of the word ‘cool’.

    And I disagree with ‘good intentions’, villains (and heroes) don’t need to be well-intentioned extremists to be likable. Look at Palpatine, he pretty clearly isn’t a benign ruler who wants to make the galaxy a better place, he just wants to rule it with an iron, lighting-shooting fist to feed his huge ego, and yet he is considered one of the greatest villains ever.

    Also, take Hannibal Lecter, another one of the greatest villains ever. He’s just plain crazy, and people love him for it.

  2. Tomon 18 Jun 2009 at 9:21 am

    Also, in rare cases you can have protagonists without good intentions. Admittedly I’m struggling to think of one but think of a few anti-heroes. Most will have good intentions but some will just be in it for themselves.

  3. Luna Jamniaon 18 Jun 2009 at 10:27 am

    Riddick! *cough*
    fangirl …

  4. notsohottopicon 18 Jun 2009 at 10:35 am


    But the currently popular heroes are anti-heroes. It’s kinda overdone nowadays (Batman, V, Light Yagami, Wolverine, Altair from Assassin’s Creed, Rorschach, Catwoman, Alex from A Clockwork Orange…the list goes on).

    Well, what about anti-villains, hm? But they usually reform to the good side in the end.

  5. Luna Jamniaon 18 Jun 2009 at 10:42 am

    I say stick with Riddick and Wolverine; and we’re all good. ^^ (for the anti-heroes)

  6. B. Macon 18 Jun 2009 at 11:07 am

    I’d say that Batman’s intentions are good, particularly in the TV shows and in Dark Knight. His methods are rough bordering on ridiculous, though.

    Likewise, Wolverine is rough and occasionally brutal but I can’t think of any time when the audience was meant to find his goal villainous or sinister.

    I wouldn’t classify Light as a hero, or even an anti-hero. I’d say he’s a villain-as-main-character. However, arguably, his motives are good, at least at the very beginning. Initially he focuses on offing criminals. His first killing saves a group of hostages, and I think that’s meant to come off as unobjectionable. (I don’t know whether it’s the same with Japanese audiences, but I’m certain that most Americans would regard it as a victory if a hostage-taker got killed and the hostages and cops got out safely).

  7. Sandmanon 18 Jun 2009 at 11:23 am

    Hmm, an anti-villain. That’s an interesting concept for a whole new realm of character. Unless someone’s already done it and I don’t know about it, which is possible. But what traits would anti-villains have?

  8. Beccaon 18 Jun 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I might have a weird sense of humour, but “we’re all fine here now, thank you” gets me on the floor laughing every time. Especially the “…how are you?” part. It just kills me.

  9. B. Macon 18 Jun 2009 at 4:53 pm

    An anti-villain would probably be a main-character villain that’s trying to do something that’s regarded as evil by other characters of the story but as sympathetic by readers. For example, the audience wanted Dr. Horrible to win against Captain Hammer, even though Hammer was supposedly the good guy.

    Alternately, an anti-villain might be an antagonist that the audience wants to succeed. For example, in Death Note, L is a detective that’s trying to stop the main character, who is a psychopathic killer. L’s methods can be rough, but he’s a lot less creepy than the killer is.

    Or an antivillain might be a character that starts out villainous but later joins the heroes or makes an important contribution to them. For example, Darth Vader saves Luke from the emperor.

  10. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 18 Jun 2009 at 10:44 pm

    “But the currently popular heroes are anti-heroes. It’s kinda overdone nowadays(Batman, V, Light Yagami, Wolverine, Altair from Assassin’s Creed, Rorschach, Catwoman, Alex from A Clockwork Orange…the list goes on)”.

    I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of anti-heroes. I think they’re among the best types.

    Also, Light Yagami = win! Haha. I don’t know why I like him, seeing as he’s a manipulative, backstabbing liar who murders people left and right. I think it’s probably because he geniunely tries to do the right thing, even if his means are less than sane.

  11. Chevalieron 19 Jun 2009 at 9:26 am

    I’d say that Ozymandias in Watchmen is an excellent example of an anti-villain. He wants to save the world, but goes to extreme measures to do so.

  12. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 19 Jun 2009 at 6:34 pm

    I’ve found several new things to be a fan of, and Avatar is one of them. Zuko has to be one of my favourite characters from the show, along with Sokka.

    I like Zuko because he is dead set on his goal and won’t let anyone get in the way, but he’s also in a lot of emotional pain and looks like he needs a hug. I like Sokka because his sense of humour is a lot like mine, with lame jokes galore. But he also comes up with some clever ideas, like in “The Boiling Rock”.

  13. Tomon 20 Jun 2009 at 11:57 am

    Would you really class Zuko as an anti-villain? It depends on the definition. Tropes defines it essentially as ‘a likeable villain, possibly to the extent that you can imagine people rooting for him’. If that’s the case, Zuko fits that to a T. Zuko really stole the show in Avatar, with many fans liking him more than Aang. There’s a reason about 50% of the fandom wanted the protagonist’s love interest to end up with Zuko. But yeah, if it weren’t for the fact that his goal is to capture the main character, most people would be rooting for him (and some still did).

    (Spoiler: all this before his Heel Face Turn anyway).

  14. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 21 Jun 2009 at 12:03 am

    It’s a good point about relationships making a character likeable. Ursa (Zuko’s mother) was only seen in flashbacks and pictures, but I like her because of what she did. (Spoiler) When Fire Lord Azulon said that Zuko must be killed to punish Ozai, it’s implied that Ursa murdered him to protect Zuko and was banished for it (end spoiler). She did the unthinkable in order to save her son, even though it meant her own misery and possible death. Now that’s a brave, likeable woman.

  15. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 21 Jun 2009 at 12:10 am

    Ah, I know something else that makes a likeable character; their actions.

    Say, for example, Bob is hit by a bus. That information alone isn’t enough to make him likeable, but if we say he was hit by a bus while he tried to save a small girl who had fallen and broken her leg, that makes him a lot more likeable.

  16. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 21 Jun 2009 at 12:11 am

    Similarly, Ursa (spoiler) was banished for murdering a man who was going to have her son killed. If all we knew was that she was banished for murder, we’d think “good riddance” (end spoiler)

  17. B. Macon 21 Jun 2009 at 3:03 am

    Hello. I’ve added four items to my list of likable traits: variety, stark characterization, growth and vulnerability.

  18. B. Macon 21 Jun 2009 at 3:07 am

    Tom said: “Also, in rare cases you can have protagonists without good intentions. Admittedly I’m struggling to think of one but think of a few anti-heroes. Most will have good intentions but some will just be in it for themselves.”

    I suspect that a protagonist that acts with bad intentions is probably unlikable. Usually, when a character with bad intentions is likable, it’s because his bad intentions don’t actually end up affecting the plot. For example, Han Solo talks like he’s selfish but acts like he’s not. He still ends up helping the Republic.

    It is REALLY hard to write a book where the audience does not want the main character to succeed. I do not recommend it for a first novel.

  19. Tomon 21 Jun 2009 at 3:51 am

    Okay, maybe protagonists should have good intentions, but that’s definitely not the case for villains. It’s easy to make a likable villain who has no good intentions (see Sylar, he just wants braaaaaaains).

  20. Wingson 21 Jun 2009 at 12:56 pm

    I actually watched an Avatar marathon the other day (I was really, really bored) and did find some of the scenes during *spoiler* Zuko’s Heel Face Turn rather funny, it showed off a side of him that, being an ultra-serious villain, we never saw before.

    Why am I so bad at being good!?!

    – Wings, with a seriously weird sense of humor

  21. Ragged Boyon 21 Jun 2009 at 3:21 pm

    I’m still without internet. I’m just dropping by to say hello and let everyone know I’m still alive. Good luck in whatever everyone is doing! 😀

  22. Luna Jamniaon 21 Jun 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Same, RB!

  23. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 22 Jun 2009 at 1:23 am


    I love that part. I also found the scene before that hilarious, where (Spoilers) Zuko is practicing his speech about how he is good to a frog, and when he utterly fails the frog jumps on his head. I laughed so hard at that, but I don’t know why. Also, in a later episode, they are all around a campfire.

    Aang says: This is just like old times.

    Zuko: If you really want it to feel like old times again, I could… chase you around for a while and try to capture you.

    I liked Zuko in the first couple of seasons, but he quickly became my favourite in season three. I loved seeing all his character development; how he changed from being obsessed with honour and violent to a somewhat more cheery guy who joked around a little. He had a few Crowning Moments of Awesome, too.

    Also the amount of crap they get past the radar in that show. TVTropes has a long list.

    (End spoilers)

  24. HiddenTigeron 21 Feb 2011 at 2:45 pm

    I’m writing a new superhero story, and I was wondering if these characters are any good. Thanks.

    Ember is a sixteen year old heroine with bright red hair. Ember is tall and thin, with dark brown eyes and light white skin. She is elegant and collected, so calm she borders on emotionlessness. She has a dry, witty sense of humor, in which she points out flaws in proposed plans. She is a tough fighter, but overly cautious and careful, refusing to do anything without planning it out first. She is the oldest active hero, who is emotiannaly scarred from her brother betraying her. She locks herself away from other people, and refuses to make lasting relationships. Her powers are flight, enhanced speed, super strength and reflexes.

    Slaughter is a fifteen year old villain whose mind has snapped. With long black hair, tinged green skin and light brown eyes, Slaughter was once a heroine alongside Ember until she vanished. Years later, she reemerged as Slaughter and proceeded to kill as many people as possible for unknown reasons. Slaughter is untrustworthy, deceitful and ruthless, as well as intelligent. She is skilled with weaponry and speaks three languages fluently. She is hot tempered and volatile, with a sharp tongue. Slaughter is usually a mercenary rather then planning any schemes of her own; she helps other villains as a sidekick. Her powers are pyromanipulation, super strength, and cabable of making her hands heat up and glow.

  25. B. Macon 21 Feb 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Hello, HiddenTiger! Some thoughts and suggestions:

    Are you writing a novel or comic book?

    “Ember is a sixteen year old heroine with bright red hair. Ember is tall and thin, with dark brown eyes and light white skin.” I’d recommend against leading with visual details like this because I don’t think they develop the character all that well. Relatedly, I think that colors tend not to be very interesting unless they somehow show us something important about the character. For example, why does it matter that her eyes are brown instead of green?

    “She is… so calm she borders on emotionlessness.” I really like this! It suggests that her calmness might be both an asset and a flaw. I think this makes for a better lead because it’s interesting and does a better job introducing her than the colors of her features.

    “She has a dry, witty sense of humor, in which she points out flaws in proposed plans.” I think you might be able to show her sense of humor more, perhaps by giving an example of one of the flaws she points out.

    “She is a tough fighter, but overly cautious and careful, refusing to do anything without planning it out first.” Could maybe be more active. Maybe something like “She is a tough fighter, but overly cautious and bad at improvizing.”

    –“She is the oldest active hero.” Active feels a bit strange here. Would “She is the team’s oldest hero” fit?

    –Since the character has enhanced speed, I think you probably don’t need to mention the reflexes. (I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a speedster without great reflexes).

    –The combination of superspeed and superstrength may make it difficult to challenge her. Greatly diluting one or the other (so that she’s a pretty strong speedster or a pretty fast tank) might lead to more interesting fights.

    –“Slaughter is a fifteen year old villain whose mind has snapped.” Since the character’s mind snapping seems pretty significant, it may help to briefly explain what happened.

    “With long black hair, tinged green skin and light brown eyes…” The green skin helps create a creepy impression, but I don’t think it’s important enough to mention this early. Also, I don’t think the long black hair or brown eyes are as interesting.

    –There seems to be a bit of a discrepancy between Slaughter’s mind having snapped and her being an intelligent mercenary. It might be more interesting if she had a goal beyond money?

    –“Slaughter is a fifteen year old villain… Slaughter was once a heroine alongside Ember until she vanished. Years later, she reemerged…” So how old would she have been when she started out as a hero?

    –There seems to be a lot going on here in terms of traits (untrustworthy/deceitful, ruthless, intelligent, linguistic, hot-tempered, homicidal, sharp-tongued). I would recommend focusing on a few that matter the most. In a synopsis of this length, I don’t think the languages or deceitfulness need to be mentioned. (Unless deceitfulness is a crucial aspect of the character, like Wormtongue or Iago or a congressman, I think it’s covered by ruthless).

    –I think most editors can figure out what you mean by “pyromanipulation,” but if this is a novel, I would recommend simplifying it to just “the ability to control fire.” It feels more natural, I think.

    –I think you can cut “capable of making her hands heat up and glow,” because 1) the glowing doesn’t sound very important and 2) heating up her hands seems a bit redundant by her ability to manipulate fire.

  26. HiddenTigeron 21 Feb 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Thank you for that, I’ll fix it up! However, an explanation of the ‘active’ thing- in the universe I am writing, heroes are unable to work past their twenties due to health problems arising from their powers. The retired heroes usually return to normal life or help mentor younger heroes.

  27. B. Macon 22 Feb 2011 at 3:21 am

    Ah, your explanation of “active” makes more sense–I think that’s a pretty good in-story reason why it falls mainly to teens to save the world.

  28. HiddenTigeron 22 Feb 2011 at 9:29 am

    Right now I’m trying to figure out what age heroes develop their powers at, etc. Most novels and comic books seem to have their abilities develop around puberty, but that would be difficult for the universe I’m planning. Do you think I should have the powers develop young, seven years of age upwards, or older at ten or eleven years old?

  29. B. Macon 22 Feb 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Well, you know the universe you’re planning a lot better than I do. Personally, I’m fond of characters that are more inexperienced with their powers and superheroics because I think they’re usually more relatable. Additionally, a character that is newer to the world of superheroics will gradually learn what’s going on, which helps the readers naturally learn for themselves what’s going on.

    Finally, I think that a newer character has higher obstacles to overcome within his team. A character newer to the team is probably going to have to fight harder for acceptance and learn the ropes than, say, a longtime veteran or team leader. (One interesting twist: What if the team leader is new?*)

    *For example, in real life an American ROTC graduate becomes a 2nd lieutenant and may command a platoon of ~40 men at the age of ~22, even though he has considerably less military experience (none!) than all of his noncommissioned officers and most of his enlisted men. In business, an outsider may be brought in as an executive (which will surely annoy any subordinates that had been competing for the job themselves). In the police, someone may be brought in from Unit A to lead Unit B, particularly if the police leaders do not like the way Unit B was running. There are a lot of dramatic obstacles for the outsider to overcome before he/she can win over the team.

  30. Wingson 23 Feb 2011 at 6:09 pm


    Depends on the powers, I’d think. If it’s a directly physical thing, like giant wings or super strength, then it might seem kind of illogical for it to spontaneously appear at a certain age – that seems like something that would develop better young. Mental abilities, though, could work better if developed older.

    – Wings

  31. Blatteron 20 Jun 2011 at 5:45 am

    Is there any article I can find that goes in depth into how to make your character “not” a Mary/Gary- Sue? All I can find are questionnaires to see if you’ve already made the blunder. An in depth character design article that specifies on Anti-Mary-Sueyness would be ideal but something similar will do.
    Hope somone will help.

  32. B. Macon 20 Jun 2011 at 9:19 am

    How to Save Mary Sues.

  33. Grenacon 14 Jul 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Ick, I almost made Ianthe a whiner without realizing it. Good thing I changed her in time 😀

  34. JDon 17 Mar 2012 at 5:53 pm

    So I’m writing a zombie novel, and I had a question about the main character for the story. I’m planning on making the guy a smart alleck, wise talking, sarcastic drug dealer. I was wondering if this was a good idea? My plan was to have him seeling drugs as a way to pay for college probably, and then throughout the rest of the story he goes on like a journey of redemption or something of that nature. So do you guys think that’s a good idea?

  35. B. McKenzieon 17 Mar 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Under most circumstances, I suspect the drug dealing angle would compromise the likability of the character. However, I think the zombie angle makes it easier to pull off something like this because zombie stories pretty routinely put characters in awful situations. In this case, the character wouldn’t have to pass a “I want this character living on my street” test to be likable–I think it’d be more of a “I’m hoping this character doesn’t get devoured by hordes of undead cannibals.”

    The zombie apocalypse angle may also show off the character’s traits in a more likable way. For example, even a really selfish character might use a crucial resource (like bullets) to save a human because, let’s face it, trying to survive a zombie apocalypse alone would sort of suck. (If you’re going it alone, the mildest injury like a sprained ankle will probably get you killed). His selfishness may rear itself in other ways (e.g. maybe he turns away someone that asks for food because he’s desperately short himself), but I think that readers will be inclined to forgive him some coldness in a zombie apocalypse. Zombie survivors are rarely depicted as saints–it’s an all-out struggle for survival.

    I would being careful with the redemption angle because it could easily feel heavy-handed, especially if it distracts from the here-and-now “how are we going to survive this” issue. One possibility might be to tie his character growth into his survival. (For example, maybe he becomes a real farmer, which is basically the opposite of dealing drugs*, because the survivors need a long-term source of food to survive. If he’s ever set up a hydroponics operation, it’d make sense if he at least had an idea of what it would take to get started as a farmer).

    *Back-breaking labor growing life-sustaining food vs. a highly lucrative job selling unhealthy drugs.

  36. JDon 18 Mar 2012 at 4:11 am

    Thanks B. McKenzie I would never have thought of it like that, so I really apperciate that insight. Ok, I have another question then. So I think that the whole wake up into a zombie apocalypse thing has been done a lot so i think it may become cliche.

    I mean they did it in The Walking Dead (my favorite zombie series and television ever BTW) and they did it in 28 Days Later. So I was wondering if you thought there was a way to pull it off while not seemingly like a carbon copy of those situations. I was thinking of the Main character waking up with amnseia and trying to find out who he is in this zombie infested world while running into survivors along the way.

  37. B. Macon 18 Mar 2012 at 5:40 am

    “I think that the whole wake up into a zombie apocalypse thing has been done a lot so I think it may become cliche.” I’m not very familiar with the zombie niche, but I have heard some complaints about that cliche*. The two most obvious alternatives would be 1) showing the world falling apart* (which could be very fast) or 2) the world has already fallen apart and the protagonist has accumulated some experience.

    *I believe the first episode of Walking Dead’s second season was originally written as a grim chronicle of a special forces unit in Atlanta. They ended up going with another script instead.

  38. JDon 18 Mar 2012 at 8:03 am

    Yeah, that’s very true. I’m sure I can figure out a better way to start the story. Truthfully, I’m just looking for the right character to do it and the right way to pull it off. So, thanks for the advice, I can’t believe to tell you how much it helps.

    Wow, I had never known that. I guess it would have been pretty cool to see something like that, but not as a season opener or anything. I’ve liked every single episode of The Walking Dead and no complipants. I guess I just feel like going with an entire episode about that unit kind of goes away from what the first season established and is incredibly risky, considering the main draw in to the show is the characters.

  39. B. Macon 18 Mar 2012 at 1:31 pm

    “I guess I just feel like going with an entire episode about that unit kind of goes away from what the first season established and is incredibly risky, considering the main draw in to the show is the characters.” Understood. A few tweaks…

    –You could start with a high-level overview (e.g. starting with news coverage and then quickly transitioning into the main character).

    –This probably isn’t applicable to your story*, but depending on the character’s occupation, he might have been one of the first responders (e.g. anything medical, military or police). Then you could take an approach like the proposed Walking Dead episode without diverting away from the main characters. (E.g. how does a police officer survive after the rest of his department gets overwhelmed?)

    *He’s a drug dealer, so he might get involved if prospective customers are getting too nervous to go outside. (Early on, he might have heard that apparently drugged-out cannibal psychos are on the streets and figure it’s a drug batch gone horribly wrong). He’d probably figure out pretty quickly that he’s ill-equipped to handle the situation (and, also, if there are reports from other cities/countries, he’d figure out it wasn’t drug-related pretty quickly).

    –World War Z started before the zombie apocalypse hit, showing some of the decision-making that led to the zombie epidemic being as bad as it was. There were a few months before the disease emerging and it becoming a global crisis, but most civilians thought the situation was under control and did not make meaningful preparations.

  40. YAon 20 Mar 2012 at 12:58 pm

    @JD. watch/read the movie/book Twelve. thats a good example of how to make a drug dealer a likeable character. highly recommened it!

  41. Yuuki12on 05 Jul 2012 at 8:46 pm

    First off, I would like to thank the author for taking the time to write this article. It’s been very informative and such I have learned quite a bit.

    I will not lie. If there’s one major weakness I have in writing, it is developing/ creating characters. And this is quite the major weaknesses. Even if one has a great plot, great setting, great narrative, everything will be in vain if the characters aren’t up to standard.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m one to understand that creating characters is a difficult process. But, it’s so frustrating at times, because creating characters which are not stereotypes or just plain static, can really make an individual feel down. Having said that, I have gotten plenty of books about defining characters as well as taking notes about characters in works that I enjoy.

    But alas, I’m rambling right now I was wondering if anyone would give me some feedback on my main character Derek, who I am writing his origin story.

    If there were three words I could use to summarize him, Laid-back would be one of them. He’s not the person who’s uptight nor does he fret about his problems. He just accepts things for what they are.

    Having said that, there’s one negative trait that comes with his atitude: absent-mindedness. He’s very much so, as Derek spaces out on a regular basis. As this site has claimed, flaws are often considered more important than positives. This is something that I wish to play up with his character, as it can get to very dangerous levels.

    And such given his powers are Sound Manipulation, the flaw also in my view has a great opportunity to develop an interesting point of view as well as develop him. This being that rather than causing him to be more active about viewing his world; rather than passive.

    Alas, I apologize if this message is getting too long, so I’ll try to wrap things up.

    The next aspect to his character is he’s friendly. He’s not out of some type of moral respect or duty; rather he does it for the sake of doing it. That said, his motivation throughout life was something I struggled with.

    Originally, I felt that maybe he’d yearned for a sense of adventure, but upon review it doesn’t like that. The one thing my character wants is consistency. Given his backstory, he’s not one to appreciate change. He likes things on a constant level, because he relates change to that dark moment.

    That said, the reason why he’s always caught staring at the night-sky, particularly, the stars, is not out of some yearning for adventure; rather he sees the pleasure as a road map to something he’d appreciated.

    Alas, I understand this motivation might be vague and such if it is, I would appreciate any suggestions anyone might have. The motivation in many ways might prove to be well, given that gaining powers and becoming a superhero is a big change. But alas, Derek, while admitting his fear and anxiety, is not one to mop.

    Rather, he strives to be proactive in addressing issues, he finds annoying. In any event, that’s most of Derek’s character in a nutshell, without going onward. All in all, thank you for taking a look at my post.

    P.S: I understand I might be stretching this, but two things: One, is it an unusual decision for a hero, if being selected to gain superpowers, to turn it down, based on how it doesn’t suit his or her way of life? Reason why I ask is because Derek does this act in the story.

    The next one deals with his friend, Liam. Even though he’s an intelligent character, does it make him stand out if he’s incredibly flirtatious, to the point where when he spots an attractive woman at any point, he becomes very distracted.

  42. YellowJujuon 06 Jul 2012 at 12:31 am

    Would a character with agoraphobia (fear of the outside) be considered too whiny?

  43. B. McKenzieon 06 Jul 2012 at 5:05 am

    I think whining would mainly be an issue if the character doesn’t do anything about his agoraphobia besides complaining about it. What does this character do about his/her agoraphobia (or manifest his/her agoraphobia) besides complaining? Additionally, it may help if there’s some vaguely likable/sympathetic reason that the character developed agoraphobia. If a character is nervous about being out in the open because he (say) was four when he saw his parents get fatally surrounded by wolves, I think it’d be somewhat easier to understand why he becomes (say) a paranoid wreck when he’s out in the open. I think it’d also help if he were taking some steps to resolve this issue rather than just surrendering.

  44. YellowJujuon 06 Jul 2012 at 7:23 am

    Right now, I’m having him get attacked and almost fatally injured by some muggers. This sympathetic enough?

    He’s also using a highly advanced robot to see the world, he’s just to scared to see it himself. He stops another attack, by the same people that attack him, that’s when he figures he can fight crime using the robot, so the world will be safer for him to experience again. This is an idea I came up while I was bored at my brothers little league game, so I haven’t put much thought into it yet.

  45. B. McKenzieon 06 Jul 2012 at 10:37 am

    “I’m having him get attacked and almost fatally injured by some muggers. This sympathetic enough?” I think it’d be hard for me to get a bead on that without having read the story–execution will probably make a huge difference there.

    I think the idea of using a robot to experience the world is an interesting way for him to attempt to resolve the issue (although hopefully he’ll face some limitations to that approach).

  46. YellowJujuon 06 Jul 2012 at 11:22 am

    I haven’t written anything yet so I will post the mugging once I write it! Thanks for the feedback!

  47. Shaeon 26 Dec 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Hi, lots of comments on “Anti-Villains”, eg. Villains who are doing something because they think its the “right” thing… Magneto? He’s the ultimate Anti-Villain, he’s trying to kill of all humanity because he thinks humanity is trying to kill off the “Homo-Superior race”, hes constantly commenting on how America is turning into Hitler, just America is with the Mutants and Hitler was anti-sematic

  48. B. McKenzieon 27 Dec 2012 at 1:32 am

    “Antivillains, e.g. villains who are doing something because they think it’s the ‘right’ thing…” I’d say an antivillain is a foe that is unusually good-intentioned and/or commands an unusual degree of sympathy from the audience. I’m not sure that it’s sufficient that the villain thinks that he is justified; pretty much all sentient villains think they’re justified, including one-dimensionally evil Nazis and serial killers.

    Is Magneto a sympathetic character? Personally, I think he came across as more deranged and purely nefarious in X-Men 1-3 than, say, Ozymandias did in Watchmen or Sgt. Brody did in Homeland or Reptile did in Amazing Spider-Man. First Class gave him more depth, I thought…

  49. Saito Yuion 16 Jul 2013 at 12:29 am

    This may strike you as a teeny bit off-topic and a bit long, but I have a bit of a predicament.
    There is one character that I have an extremely strong interest in as a writer: Haruka Saigusa from Little Busters. Critics have praised Little Busters for having great character design, and I personally agree quite strongly, but then there is Haruka Saigusa. Now what I found interesting about Haruka, is that she was the one character that I went from wanting to throw a brick at, hating, FOAMING WITH RAGE(not literally) every time I saw her appear, to the one member of the entire cast I would want to hang out with in a heartbeat.

    I kept pondering how a writer could make a character go from my least liked to most liked with such skill, and I kept banging my head against the pavement figuring out how this writer made it work.

    The answer, superficially, was obvious. I hated her because she was a genuine troublemaker. An affront to civil order, and a walking cesspool of useless noise, coming in to the main characters’ class simply to prank and screw them over, ruin my experience as a reader, and cause unneeded mischief. Behind that big smile I saw an obvious attention whore; person with no conviction, with no sense of self-worth, a true wench. I would’ve gladly beaten such trash into submission had I met someone like her in real life.


    Until the story took a look into her backstory. It turns out she had been abused relentlessly as the unfavorite child, her estranged sister is the head of the school’s prefects trying to prosecute her, and her old family’s recently come back from the past to torment her once more.

    I immediately realized… perhaps I was a bit too harsh on her? Her personality DOES match those who have been known victims of child abuse. And then I began to question what it would be like if I was in her position. The story did an excellent job of portraying what it was like living in that nightmare family. Suddenly many of the actions she took began to make sense. She was an attention whore because it was a luxury she never had. She ditched her own classroom because her evil sister was there. I slowly began to respect her more and more. I no longer had any semblance of hatred for her.

    And lastly, what made me LOVE her, were the choices she decided to make, despite what she’s been through. During the scenes that depicted living with that god-awful family, she still found a way to be happy. She still chose to remain as cheerful as she could be, even with all of those bruises. And instead of accepting her fate, she chose to become a major vandal and troublemaker, solely to get back at her sister(the aformentioned head of the school’s prefects, who have to apprehend Haruka on a daily basis), who she believed abandoned her. I actually began to see such a character as admirable.


    So… I know that her backstory(2nd dimension) made me sympathize her, and her Motive(3rd dimension) made me admire her. I realized that with Haruka, Sympathy and Admiration go hand-in-hand, but I asked myself, WHY did I sympathize with her in the first place?
    I’m not certain of my answer. My theory is that I sympathized with her because I CARED about her in the first place. Yes, I hated her. But that still counts as CARING about her. Regardless of the emotion, I felt strongly about this character.

    I bet if another character I didn’t feel strongly about was revealed to be tormented with a backstory as bad as Haruka’s, I wouldn’t have sympathized with that character as much.

    So, my analysis of why Haruka Saigusa is a likeable character is as follows:
    1st Dimension: Personality – Interesting, out-of-the-ordinary, made the reader CARE
    2nd Dimension: Backstory – Tormenting, believable, comes back to haunt Haruka, made the reader SYMPATHIZE
    3rd Dimension: Motive – Optimistic, not willing to give up, not willing to lie down, made the reader ADMIRE

    Does this seem like a valid theory on why Haruka worked as a character?

  50. Saito Yuion 16 Jul 2013 at 12:37 am

    Sorry, got so caught up in writing that long essay, that I actually forgot my original question.
    I’m somewhat firm in my belief that the missing link I failed to realize was that I CARED about Haruka. Haruka was able to illicit strong emotions in me, whether those emotions took the form of love or anger.
    My REAL question is, how can I do this for my characters? Do I make them interesting? I do know a few tricks on how to make my characters interesting. But I’m wondering if that will help my ultimate goal of getting the readers to CARE. There’s no point in even TRYING to pull off a wonderful character like Haruka if my readers are gonna treat it with apathy.

  51. Klutzon 27 Sep 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Are there any flaws/negative character traits that are almost universally unlikable?

  52. B. McKenzieon 28 Sep 2014 at 8:02 am

    “Are there any flaws/negative character traits that are almost universally unlikable?” Incompetence, idiocy, weakness, excessive indecision, excessive inactivity (e.g. other characters are forced to drag him along on the plot), a tendency to whine or complain, cowardice, and probably excessive self-doubt.

    If I were reviewing manuscripts for a publisher, I’d insta-reject virtually every story about a “humorously” incompetent superhero and/or a hero with “humorously” ineffectual superpowers because they so rarely work on any level (comedic or otherwise).

  53. Alpha Flighton 15 Jan 2015 at 11:38 am

    Superheroes who whine (especially about how much hey hate their powers and wish they could get rid of them) always turn me off. I classify x men in two ways: the ones who don’t complain constantly about how much their powers suck (aka awesome heroes) and the ones who do ( I’m looking at you, rogue)

  54. Andrewon 10 May 2016 at 3:07 am

    My heroes don’t whine, because whining wastes time. I choose to have them help each other out when they’re on a case or investigating. I also like to have them build character relationship, like bromances and womances and in between. I think it helps with character development, and being on a team, there’s the occasional banter. And I do make them witty, having a decent comeback should they be insulted

  55. Jinxon 04 May 2017 at 8:03 am

    My character Jasmine is pretty spectacularly unique, in my opinion.

    She has a fairly distinct personality, in that she’s easy going, manic, and somewhat psychotic.
    Her relationship with her siblings is kinda creepy, since she stalks them and leaves disturbing presents (like a pig’s eyeball stuffed in it’s severed nose). She can be helpful but mostly just makes people shiver.
    Jasmine is fairly competent, and actually pretty adept at magic, and dies have a lot of knowledge at her disposal. The only problem is she’s halfway insane. (Magical parasite destroyed half her sanity).
    I don’t think she’s very relatable, but probably more than a little entertaining (at least writing her is)
    Jasmine’s style is very unique. She wears a lot of black and purple fabric basically tied around her body for clothing, and has a strange hairstyle (one side hacked off the other braided down her shoulder). She decorates her bedroom with shrunken head.
    Jasmine’s sense of humor is weird, and she laughs a lot, especially when someone is confused.
    For flaws she’s manic/emotionally detached
    Whenever Jasmine’s bored she doesn’t complain about it, she plays chess with herself with a set that makes the pieces explode into purple or black glitter when taken.
    She’s manic, cocky, intentionally creepy, and constantly happy.

    That’s all I have under your categories but she’s still my favorite character (even though the main is her sister).
    Your thoughts?

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply