The reader will care about your writing if you’ve developed a likable protagonist. You don’t have a story without the protagonist, so here are three writing tips on how to make him or her likable.
1. Writing Tip #1: Don’t Make the Protagonist Perfect
To develop a likable character, you have to think about making her believable too. If she is smart, beautiful, kind, successful, and has superpowers, where is the space for conflict? Control the urge to develop the most admirable and worthy person in the world. Identification comes from familiarity, and in real life, nobody is perfect. So, neither should your protagonist. She has to have some flaws and imperfections. This will make the audience identify with her. A likable protagonist will hook the reader on the story because the reader will want to see how things develop for her. Nobody cares about someone who has it all figured out.
2. Writing Tip #2: A Likable Protagonist is Better Than the Rest of Us
Develop your likable protagonist in a realistic way when it comes to ego, flaws, desires, and inner conflict. But when it comes to practical skills, he is better than the rest of us. A likable protagonist is skillful and powerful in something important to the story. Whether he is a great father or influential businessman or can eat 50 hotdogs in 10 minutes, he has something that stands out from the rest of us. This makes us admire him and root for him. He may be broke, unfulfilled, and arrogant, but he is the best poker player we’ve ever meet.
Writing Tip #3: Create Empathy Towards the Protagonist.
A reader who has connected and identified with a likable protagonist will empathize with her. The protagonist’s hardships will be the reader’s. There are two powerful ways to develop a likable protagonist through empathy. One is to make the protagonist suffer “undeserved misfortune” (Writing screenplays That Sell, Hauge 2011). An injustice has happened to your protagonist. Something that makes you think, man, that must suck. The “undeserved misfortune” victimizes the protagonist and makes us feel her pain.
The second way of creating empathy for your likable protagonist is to put her in danger. A danger of a broken heart, lost job, car accident, etc. We like the people we worry about. Creating a worrisome situation will make the reader empathize with the protagonist.