What are the hallmarks of an unlikeable character for your novel or screenplay?
One easy way to come up with ideas for that is to look at what makes people likeable and then have your character do the opposite.
In the book “Likeable Business,” Dave Kern lists the following as the characteristics of likeable business leaders:
LISTENING —to customers, colleagues, shareholders—and competitors
AUTHENTICITY—because today’s savvy customer always knows when you’re faking it
TRANSPARENCY—honesty builds trust and any deviation can destroy your reputation
ADAPTABILITY —managing change and finding new opportunities is critical to success today
SIMPLICITY—in design, in form, and in function
GRATEFULNESS —every “thank you” is appreciated . . . and generates surprising returns!
I think we could say those are the hallmarks of likeable people in general. When we reverse them, we come up with a character who:
- Never listens to other people, being too busy trying to think of what to say about themselves next.
- Never admits there’s anything they don’t know or haven’t done; instead, they fake everything.
- Lies, cheats, and steals.
- Refuses to consider changing.
- Complicates everything, perhaps trying to keep people confused so they won’t see through him or her.
- Never says thank you, just assumes that every body should help them or do what his or she wants.
It could be overkill to give one character all of these negative traits, but having them show two or three gives you a good unlikeable character.
This can also be helpful for creating credible protagonists--give them a mild form of one of these faults. For instance, not somebody who never listen to anybody else, but maybe someone who tunes out when under stress.(Do you want practical guidance in writing your book? Get a copy of Your Writing Coach, published by Nicholas Brealey and available from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.)