5 Ways to Make a Character More Likable
1. SAVE THE CAT
The most obvious form of the “save the cat” trope is when, well, your character literally saves a cat; from a tree, a burning building, whatever the case may be, saving a cat shows your character’s potential to be good. Consequently, it becomes easier for the audience to side with your character for the rest of the story. As a general rule of thumb, the earlier you implement this technique, the better. Your character could be a sociopathic serial killer, but if they are first seen tending to their sickly grandmother, then there is a greater chance that the audience will at least sympathize with them on some level.
And as you can see from the sickly grandmother example, there is a wide variety of circumstances and actions that fall under the “save the cat” umbrella. They could give money or food to a homeless person, hold the elevator for a stranger, or just smile warmly at someone. Furthermore, your character doesn’t even have to be successful in their attempts to do good, or even try. While voiceover is tricky, it can be used to hear a character’s thoughts to do good. Sometimes, just the thought is good enough.
2. THE REASON
Everyone has a past. Your character’s backstory has shaped them into who they are and why they do what they do. One way to make a character more likable is to reveal some events that occurred in their past which allow the audience to sympathize with them. While the audience may not condone the actions your character is carrying out, if it can be linked back to some traumatic past event, they can at least understand.
3. THE LESSER EVIL
One great advantage of storytelling is that you can choose which characters to include and exclude. Your protagonist may be unlikable in comparison to humanity at large, but they can be made to seem better within the scope of the story. That is, by excluding or minimizing the amount of baby-kissers and model citizens in your story, the audience has no choice but to latch on to the lesser of two evils. In other words, your protagonist may be evil, but there is an even greater evil that they must overcome.
4. THE BEST
Making your character a genius, or the best at a given craft induces admiration and respect in the audience. The fact that they are the best at something infers that they have spent a great deal of time improving upon their craft. The path to becoming the best undoubtedly requires dedication, persistence, and perhaps talent. All of these attributes are generally viewed as praiseworthy, and can therefore make a character more likable.
5. THE ENTERTAINER
Often times a character is likable primarily because they are entertaining or have magnetic personalities. Take the Joker from The Dark Knight, for example. The audience loves him because he is entertaining, among other reasons.