What Makes a Likable Character?
Updated: Aug 1, 2019
Is it a character who always does what’s right, is always kind, rarely makes any kind of wrong decision? Or if the character does make a bad choice, does it later turn out it was the right choice all along? The kind of character who often shows up as the protagonist of fantasy stories?
No. Characters who are perfect are not relateable. People are imperfect and perfect characters do not seem realistic. And they are certainly not entertaining. Furthermore, if you know the character is going to do the right thing all the time, that character is predictable.
Now while I enjoy predicting what’s going to happen in a movie with friends, and try to figure out all the foreshadowing, if I’m always right, it’s boring. (This is why I loved the Salem TV series. Most of my guesses were wrong, except where John Alden is concerned. But let’s not talk about John Alden.)
And many times our Blandy McBland hero is surrounded by her or his friends, friends who are flawed, get into trouble, or have wicked senses of humor. It’s these characters who often eclipse the main character. But out of all the different personalities a character can have, humor is the quickest way to make the audience respond favorably. The funny friend is often well-liked by the audience.
Regardless of which genre someone prefers, he or she will love to laugh. Look at the popularity of Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones. Sure, the world of Westeros is often described as dark and “gritty” (Why is this word so popular to use? Seriously, I can’t stop thinking of being at the beach and finding grit in my bikini after sitting on the sand. Also, it reminds me of grits, and now I’m imagining the staple food of Westeros is grits. It really should be.) Back to the subject. Tyrion’s humor doesn’t seem out of place, doesn’t diminish the seriousness of the constant death and destruction. (Remember, real life can be miserable, but there’s at least that one friend who makes the goofy joke.) People then anticipate seeing that character again, care about that character, because of the laughter he brings.