Characters – Gotta’ Like ’em All

Characters - Gotta' Like 'em All
Last night I was texting my boyfriend about my novel. He ended up asking who the “bad guys” were and who needed to  “step it up.” I had a hard time answering that second question because all of my characters have redeeming qualities to them.

I think, depending on the genre/audience of your work, that every character needs to have redeeming qualities. Now this goes beyond my post about round characters. What I mean here is specifically with those bad guys. I want to love how much I hate them.

Bad Guys You Feel For

Easy examples to point to are Voldemort from Harry Potter and Loki from Thor. You kind of feel bad for these guys. Both characters have not so ideal home situations. But at the same time, they totally deserve everything that gets handed to them. And that’s what I want my characters to be like (even though I don’t necessarily have that evil of characters).

Even my characters that seem that they would be unlikeable due to specific characteristics (I happen to have a character who is an attractive guy who is very much aware of this – he was the character in question from my text conversation) should have qualities that make the reader second think those initial judgements.

I’m not saying here that your bad guy has to really be good deep down. It probably wouldn’t work out so well if that was the case. What I am saying, though, is that it is more engaging (I think) to find likable moments or qualities in a character even if everything else about them overshadows these small things.

How To Make The Bad Guys Likable

I had a character that was essentially the obnoxious guy who was constantly flirting and picking on the main character. He was pretty unlikable and that was a problem. I had to find a way to make him redeemable.

While I wanted to keep a lot of those same characteristics, as you may want to do as well, I toned a couple of the negative characteristics down. It lessened the huge immediate reaction to just hate him. Then I added a characteristic that still fit with the character, but was likable or gave reason behind one of his negative characteristics.

To make your bad guys less bad, these are quick ways:

  • Tone down the negative aspects of the character
  • Add a couple positive characteristics
  • Give them a sympathetic back story


Do you have ways you make your bad guys less bad?

  • Awesome post. Definitely agree with you that well rounded characters are the best. 🙂 Fairy tale type villains who are just bad for the sake of being bad are really easy to lose interest in. Great reflection, thanks!

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