How to Make Your Hero Likable

You must get your audience to root for your hero. If you fail to do that, the rest of your story is pointless since the audience won’t care if your hero wins or not.

In his book “Save the Cat” Blake Snyder says that one way to make your hero likable is to show him or her doing something good, such as saving a cat. When you make your hero do something admirable, your audience will bond to your hero.

Perhaps another way to make your hero likable is to have your hero suffer from some injustice or setback through no fault of his own. That’s what makes the old man likable in “Up” when his wife dies. That’s also what makes many other heroes likable from “Rocky” to “WALL-E” to even superheroes like Spiderman. When your hero suffers from something outside of his control, we automatically feel sorry for that person, especially when we can clearly see that the injustice is not his fault.

Show your hero doing something admirable and show your hero suffering an injustice. Use one or both methods and you can get your audience to like your hero.

Conversely, you can use these two methods to get your audience to dislike your villain. Show your villain doing something nasty and we automatically dislike that person. In many movies, the villain has all the power and abuses it. Think of the evil teddy bear (Lotsa Bear) in “Toy Story 3” who has organized the toys to hold other toys virtual prisoners. When someone has power that they use to abuse others, our sense of justice makes that villain easy to dislike.

Show your villain with all the power and being arrogant about it and we also dislike that villain right away. Apollo Creed in “Rocky“ isn’t necessarily a bad person, but he’s arrogant and when compared to Rocky’s more humble attitude and more modest surroundings, it’s easy to like Rocky and dislike Apollo Creed, especially when he postures as the rich kid with all the toys so he’s better than everyone else.

Think of what you don’t like in other people and that’s a characteristics you probably won’t like in a villain. Make your villain uncaring about others and we dislike that person. Make your villain take advantage of someone else and we won’t like that person.

By showing characters doing something good (or bad) and showing characters suffering from an injustice (or taking advantage of it), we can like or dislike anyone. Use those to make your hero or villain stronger and you make your story stronger because your audience will have a stronger interest in seeing your hero win and your villain lose.

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