12 Tips on How to Write a Likable Character

Kevin Barrett
Published in
9 min readAug 15, 2021
How to write a likeable character | How to make a character likeable

Writing a likable character in your novel can be difficult but it is not impossible. There are many ways to make your characters more likable and believable, which will help readers empathize with them. This article will go over some of the best ways to create a likable character in your story or novel!

1. Introduce your character early on in the story

A good lesson to take early on in the writing process is to introduce your character early on in the story. Readers want to know who they are following and what their motivations are. The earlier you can tell readers about a character, the more likely it is that those characters will become likable as they progress through their stories or novels.

Tip: Don’t write these introductions too long. Keep them concise enough to keep the pacing of the story moving along without giving away too much.

It’s good to introduce a likable character before the end of the first act of your story. This will give readers a chance to invest in the story and learn about your character without feeling like there is too much left unresolved.

2. Make your character a flawed person

Likable characters need to feel like real people. They have to have flaws. We all know that being a “perfect” character is boring and unrealistic, so give your protagonist some flaws. Maybe they’re too trusting or maybe they can’t keep their mouth shut in difficult situations?

Some novels may need the protagonist to actually be perfect for the storyline (for instance if it’s a romantic novel about two people who are destined to fall in love). In this case, you’ll want to emphasize how amazing and special of a person your main character is — even with his/her imperfections!

However, most of us don’t read fiction solely because we want stories about perfection; we gravitate towards plots where our protagonists feel like someone we could meet on the street.

A good example of a famous flawed character is Harry Potter. Harry was a boy who had to struggle with a horrible past, but managed to maintain his integrity and fight for what he believed in no matter how hard it got — while still making mistakes!

3. Give them a backstory to help readers connect with them

A troubled past is what helps shape a character into the kind of person they are today. Give them a backstory that will help the readers connect with who they are now.

One of my favorite backstories of a character Zuko from “Avatar: The Last Airbender”. Prince Zuko was raised in an abusive and powerful family, physically scarred by his own cruel father. He is then banished from his homeland and ordered to go on an impossible quest to find the Avatar in order to return home.

What’s not to like about a character who has been through so much and is still trying his best? By the end of “Avatar: The Last Airbender”, Zuko has gone through an exceptional character arc and is one of the most likable characters.

4. Make sure they have goals and motivations that are relatable

We all have dreams and ambitions, and so should your characters. Whether they’re a scrawny kid with glasses who wants to be the next Stephen King or an old woman that’s living by herself on her farm after everyone else died from some disease — readers will love it when you show what drives them day-to-day.

If your character’s motivation is to rule the universe then you have a problem. Try to think of something that people can relate to and use in their everyday life, or the reader will lose interest quickly.

For example, Paul Atreides, the main character of Frank Herbert’s Dune, ends up ruling the universe by the end of the novel, but his main goal for the story was just to seek revenge for the death of his father and reclaim the planet Arrakis.

5. Show their vulnerability, but don’t let it become too much of an issue

Having a stoic character can get boring after a while. It’s more impactful and interesting if the character has some kind of vulnerability. For example, showing that they’re afraid or sad about something.

It’s a good idea to show it rather than tell the reader about it so people can get more emotionally involved in the story and feel like someone is on their side. On the other hand, don’t let this become too much of an issue for them because then they’ll just seem weak instead of strong by overcoming these issues.

Make the character believable in a variety of different states. This will help the reader to get a better idea of who this person is.

However, if they’re too emotional then it’ll seem overdramatic which will make them unlikable. It’s important not to let one emotion dominate their entire personality either because this makes them unrelatable and boring. Showing all of these various attributes gives readers an accurate image of who your character really is. Keep some variety by showing different aspects of their personality throughout the story.

6. Let your character make mistakes — this will show how human and imperfect they are

Whether the character is the main protagonist or a side character, you want to write them as someone who is capable of making mistakes throughout the story. The point of any story is character growth and you can’t have growth without making a few mistakes along the way, just like real life.

Letting your protagonist fall down throughout the book shows how human they are — it also allows you to develop a sense of empathy with them when things go wrong. Make us root them on!

One of my favorite examples of a character making a mistake is in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when Harry makes the mistake of trusting the visions inside of his head too much and thinking that Sirius Black was actually captured and held prisoner at the Ministry of Magic. This mistake of Harry’s is what leads to his godfather’s eventual death.

This displays how human Harry is and shows that he makes mistakes like any other person and can be extremely vulnerable to outside forces when his guard is down.

What does this mean for you as a writer? It means don’t let your character’s growth come from them never making any mistakes at all because it will make them less relatable and more “too good to be true”.

Instead allow your character to learn from their mistakes in order to grow into an optimistic and courageous individual who has experienced life without being sheltered by others’ opinions — just like real people do!

7. Give them traits that set them apart from other people in their world but also show how they are like everyone else too

A character with distinct traits and personality traits will end up being likable with readers because they’re more interesting and relatable than other characters.

Another trait that makes characters likable is showing them as both unique from other people and very relatable.

A great example of this is Harry Potter because he wasn’t just some extraordinary wizard with amazing powers–he was nothing special at all when it came down to it but still managed to be one of the most well-loved fictional heroes ever created.

8. Write to make your character likable, not just for the sake of it but because you want readers to enjoy spending time with this character

Keep in mind your readers while developing your likable character. It’s your readers who need to enjoy reading time with this character.

Is your character clever? Kind? Funny? Consider how you want the readers to feel about them when they’re not around, such as missing their company or being happy when they come back into the story.

These things will make them likable and memorable to readers because these qualities are something that is shared between characters and alike.

9. Give your character dialogue that is witty, intelligent, and sarcastic

The most direct way to show a character’s personality in your novel is through what they say. A character’s dialogue is a reflection of their personality and is the way we get to know them.

Giving your character some witty or clever one-liners in dialogue can be a great way to show their intelligence and wit. These one-liners can also be really amusing for the reader, even if they do not reveal anything about your character’s personality.

But be careful not to over-indulge your character with too many sarcastic retorts or witty one-liners. This can lead to a character that is hard to like and too unlikable for the audience.

Remember not all characters need wittiness as part of their characterization — just think about how much you want this aspect highlighted within the story! And finally, remember not every line needs an accompanying “witty retort.” Sometimes having a character stay silent can be just as wise.

10. Develop likable characters who act realistically and truthfully

You need to have your character react in a believable way when they’re faced with being involved in or observing a distressing incident. It is important for characters to be relatable, but also not to behave in an unrealistically extreme manner.

It can be hard as a writer to know how to portray a character who reacts the way you think people might. One technique is to write yourself into the story and react in your own head as if it was happening to you, then put those thoughts on paper.

If this doesn’t work for you, try making them make decisions based on what they’ve seen or gone through before — such as remembering an event that’s similar and reacting accordingly.

Another option would be using ‘real-life’ characters who have distinct reactions after distressing incidents in their lives — like celebrities or public figures who are well known for their responses after certain events happen.

11. Give them conviction

Agency is the power or right to act independently and make decisions for oneself. Characters who are able to make a difference in the story with their actions are more appealing to readers than those just reacting. Giving the character a backbone or agency can go a long way to making them more likable.

When you give your character agency, this means they have the power of self-direction which in turn will mean that readers find it easier to form attachment because their own lives are not so different from those characters who know what they want.

To write a likable character, it’s important to give enough weight to whether readers see themselves as capable of carrying out these actions. In order for your character to seem real, they need some sense of being proactive rather than reactive.

The protagonist needs to take charge of their life and be proactive about what they want out of it in order for readers to relate better.

12. Create an antagonist who is just as memorable as your protagonist — if not more so

If you’re trying to make your protagonist likable, it might be a good idea to make the antagonist proportionally unlikable. If your hero is a kind and gentle soul who only does good things, then the antagonist should be cruel to other people or out for themselves.

The best antagonists are those who are just as memorable as your protagonist — if not more so. They’re usually the ones that make you feel really angry because they’ve done something wrong, but this also makes them interesting characters in their own right.

Good storytellers know how to use these characters effectively by making it clear why we don’t like them without using cliches such as evil laugh or comically bad hair day!


In conclusion, building a character that people can relate to is the key to writing compelling fiction. The best way to do this is by giving them flaws and making their goals believable — like they want power or revenge for example. To build your character’s backstory, you should think about what shaped them in childhood and how these past events affect their decisions as adults. Finally, don’t forget to give your character’s vulnerability so we get invested in their story!

Share with me below if you have any tips on developing likable characters!

This article was originally posted on StoryFlint.com

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