Characters don’t need to be liked. The only thing that a character actually needs to be is interesting. Now that doesn’t mean that everyone should be unlikeable. It doesn’t mean that characters all need to be obstinate rebels with attitude problems. It does mean that characters shouldn’t be dull pieces of boards that could make the most patient of people weep. The issue is many people conflate a character being interesting, with a character being likeable. Sometimes those two traits overlap, other times they don’t and there isn’t anything wrong with that.
What It Means to be Likeable
Everyone likes different things. People are attracted to different kinds of people, which means no matter how hard you try not everyone will like the character you’ve created. Creating a character that is likeable means that you’re creating a character that people feel they can relate to. They aren’t overly happy or overly depressive. These are characters with a balance and interests that are understandable. It is very much like people in real life. Likeable people are charismatic and are comprised of a number of traits.
What It Means to be Interesting
Many times you’ll find that likeable people are interesting as well. But there are probably more people out there who are unlikeable, but completely interesting. An interesting character often has a lot of things going on with them that conflict and inspire their traits. So while, someone can be interesting that doesn’t mean they are interesting. Often interesting results from the situations that the character ends up in and how they then handle those situations. Thus if nothing happens to a character and they never do anything, they can be likeable, but likely aren’t interesting.
Unlikeable characters can be really interesting as their motivations can sometimes be more intricate and their reactions more involved. However, an unlikeable character can be just as dull as a likeable character. The only time that an interesting, but unlikeable character is an issue is when the character was actually meant to be likeable. When that happens it means that the character’s creation is flawed. Something happened in that character’s development that ended up detracting from the character. I see this happen very often when characters are know-it-alls or spoilsports. These are characters that are trying to keep a level head and be helpful, but if it isn’t handled well, these characters become tedious instead. There’s nothing worse than a tedious character.
What makes you like or dislike a character? Also what makes a character interesting or uninteresting to you?