Problem: Your hero or heroine is too annoying to be a sympathetic main character. Your critique partners and beta readers have told you the character needs a makeover. How do you make your readers stick with your unlikable character – and root for him or her anyway? Is it a lost cause?
Fear not. There is a way.
A More Sympathetic Light
Have you ever known someone who annoyed the heck outta you – for years, maybe – until one day you saw another side to him or her? Something that cast them in a more sympathetic light? A crabby old neighbor, maybe … who had lost his wife. A catty woman in your social club … who had once had a dream of being a professional ballerina. A silent, almost sinister type … who volunteers at the soup kitchen on his days off.
Sometimes when you know one good, kind, or sympathetic thing about a person it changes your entire perception. Is there something good you can add to an otherwise unlikable hero or heroine?
Why Are You So Annoying?
I’ve had a character who is utterly un-put-up-able. Her name is Tiffany and she’s so cock-sure and full of herself, she’s just a pain in the rear end. She’s so nasty, sometimes even I don’t enjoy working with her!
I was stewing over this problem when I learned something new about my character. Her ego was a facade. Behind it, she was, in fact, a very vulnerable young lady, desperately afraid of being thought inferior. She’d always felt as if she had to earn her parents’ favor and now, recently orphaned, that chance was lost forever.
And that is how to make an annoying character truly likable: Explore why they are the way they are and make it a part of their story.
What are your tips for making an annoying character likable?