How to make your main character likable

Among the major challenges facing fiction writers is creating a protagonist who readers will like. After all, if readers loathe the character, they probably aren’t going to continue with the book. In fact, they may wrongly decide that you’re an author who always creates unlikable characters and not purchase your other books.

No matter the genre you’re writing in, almost all likable protagonists share several common traits. Among them are:
• Flawed personality – No one is perfect, and neither should be your main character. Too perfect characters are dull because they’re one dimensional. The flaw should be something that challenges the protagonist in resolving the story’s central problem, and he should be able to overcome that failing so he can be victorious in the end.
• Noteworthy qualities – Despite possessing a serious internal flaw, the protagonist at heart must be a decent human being. For example, he keeps trying no matter how difficult the task or he puts others before himself, especially in those people are in need of help.
• Self-sacrifice – The protagonist’s reason for resolving a story’s problem should not be for personal glory but to help others. On fact, to finally overcome obstacles, he should be willing to give up something important to himself.

Another technique writers can use to increase likability is ensuring the reader sees the world through the protagonist’s eyes. Offer evocative descriptions of the world that appeal to all of the reader’s senses. This creates intimacy for the reader, who vicariously experiences all that the main character does.

A final thought: No matter how much you try, no character is universally likable. Some readers desire perfect white hat characters while others hold the flaw itself in such low repute (such as a bad temper or alcoholism) that your protagonist is doomed despite that he ultimately changes ways. Don’t worry about this, however. Focus on what the majority of readers are looking for, and most book lovers will relish your protagonist.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.