What Makes a Character Likable?

Lately, I’ve run across way too many YA book reviews that decry the extreme unlikability of main characters. Are writers making their protagonists too unlikable? Sure, writing an engaging main character is a complex process–we like our protagonists flawed and thus more interesting, but isn’t it also important for them to be likable enough to root for through an entire novel?

With fictional characters–as with real people–“engaging” and “likable” are subjective, to be sure. In Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, for example, some readers find the protagonist Rachel so incredibly flawed that she’s just too pitiful to root for; others, like me, find her compelling and sympathetic in her way. The truth is, no characters in The Girl on the Train are heroic in a classic sense, but the story still works. That’s just good writing, so kudos to Paula Hawkins.

So…what makes a character likable? Here’s my list. Tell me if I missed anything.

What Makes a Character Likable?

1. Must feel extremely passionate about something.
2. Has at least one person she’s willing to fight for.
3. Isn’t too perfect.
4. Has a troubled life.
5. Isn’t overly whiny about her troubled life.
6. Has a special talent, skill, or exceptional personality trait.
7. Sees the world in a unique way.
8. Is aware of her own flaws and grows or changes in some way. (added by blogger eclecticscribblings)
9. BONUS: Has a sense of humor, especially about herself. (added by blogger Aedifice)

In other news, I’m falling madly in love with my latest work in progress, a contemporary YA with time travel and a ghost. Had to share. 🙂

— Eve