3 Ingredients to a “likable” MC

You need at least 2 of the following:

Openess: The character is friendly and open to making new friends. People often complain about main characters who are overly judgmental and bitchy.

Competence: If your plot can only be driven forward by your main character being an idiot and making unbelievably stupid decisions, your readers will hate them.

Depth: Basically them having more than 2 personality traits. They should have goals, wants, values, and flaws.

Have I cracked the code?

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I think the first two are a bit subjective for example, in one of my stories, my MC is not open at all but she’s also not bitchy. She’s a product of her life, she grew up facing abusive horrendous situations, and she’s had to close herself of to be able to protect herself. Again same with competence, I think it very much depends on the character and thier background.

I think that both those things really hinge on the depth; so really I would say that instead of 3 ‘ingredients’ you only need one thing which is depth. The more complex your characters are the more layers that the reader has to peel back. They get to really understand a characters behaviours and motivations, and through the characters values, goals, likes and dislikes they can relate to or at the very least empathise with them.

I think likability is an interesting gauge, because likeability is a subjective thing. What I might like, someone else might completely hate, but also I don’t necessarily think you need to make your characters likable for the story to work. It might take a little more convincing for the reader to stay (e.g a good plot, other more likable characters, etc.) but just because a character isn’t necessarily likable doesn’t mean there aren’t elements that you can connect with or actually enjoy about that character… but again that’s really down to personal choice.

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It’s just 3 things I found were missing when prople complain about unlikable main characters or boring main characters.
They tend to be mean for no reason, outright stupid, reckless, or useless, and/or lacking any depth.

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There’s a code?

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I have a seal of Solomon model for it, too.

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I find it is a good explanation for how characters like Schlock from Schlock are well-liked.

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Ha! I don’t wanna be drawing gibberish Mandala circles for life.

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Leave it to me, then

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This would all work.

I have a hack to add to this advice.

The character archetype that everyone always goes aww for is the too pure for their own good cinnamon roll that wears emotions on their sleeve and becomes a victim of their own inability to be evil.

It happens that I like writing characters like that so almost all (maybe all?) of my stories have some kind of version of a cinnamon roll for me to torture and for readers to root for.

It’s important to point out that not all characters can be cinnamon rolls. You need to have a variety to contrast and entertain. One roll per full cast, please.

This hack of course applies only if you enjoy writing that type of character. If it’s not for you, feel free to skip.

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All the cinnamon rolls I write are secretly badasses so I can’t

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Oh Lord. Now I wanna write a cast of fake cinnamon rolls who are faking it, trying to out-good each other except for when the mask slips. I mean to the point where you have a modestly decent person walk into that and have to fight their way out of whatever machinations they are trapped by, get called evil, and go full-tilt anti-hero.

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Sounds like a great setup.

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I hate pure cinnamon rolls, I really do. The closest I have to that is Teo, but he outlives his cinnamonness and is more of a breakfast roll. He’s still a decent guy, though.

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Yes! When the cinnamon roll stands up for themselves, everyone always cheers. It’s such a satisfying moment.

So I guess a general, non-cinnamon-roll advice here is vulnerability. Everyone wants to see the abused character to stand up and say, That’s enough!

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Yeah, Definitely. Teo is nice, but he doesn’t want to be taken advantage of. Despite his size, he’s a very fair, kind guy. He doesn’t want to be a bully because of what he went through. But it’s satisfying when he finds his boundaries and asserts them. And is confident and comfortable doing so.

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Into the boneyard it goes, for now. This one would take work to do right. I mean, you have to figure out where each monster breaks by personality trait and how to trip this poor person into that trap.

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This is why I get called kind, not nice. I’ll do things for people that could make me look like a pushover, but step out of line when I’m in a bad mood. Lmao

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As valid as this discussion is, one can have a perfectly successful book with compelling characters without them being “likable.” We merely have to see something of ourselves in them, or be able to understand their perspective.

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Show me an iconic main character who is incompetent, judgemental, and lacks any depth. Bella Swan does not count.

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Oh, it gets fun. You have a perfectly likeable character on the worst day of their life, you might find a monster. The place you write them from can change so much of what they are.

We see it a lot easier with a family member that we hated when we were young but relate with when we are older, and sometimes vice versa, than we do in a story–mostly due to living with them far longer than the duration of a Novel’s timeline.

Besides, I think what real life is like a lot before I look at a character, even more so after my mother’s death. Perfectly fine romance novels (escapism) were so flat as to set me off in those last months. Then I started writing them. go me.

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