Flaws help make a character deeper and more sympathetic, well usually they do. However, Hitler was also flawed, yet nobody likes him (now). Charles Manson was crazier than a WB: SE chatroom conversation, and also called the worst person ever.

Shinji Ikari is a very borderline case, those who saw the End of Evangelion know what I'm talking about.

However, I like the idea of a character, who despite being a victim, isn't a saint, and has some serious issues.

So, anyway, I'd just like to get a few guidelines on making someone flawed but not unlikable, even if they have larger flaws than being * shudders * clumsy, self-sacrificing, too nice. Think of stuff like Machiavellian scheming and aggressive outbursts (like I'm pressing a vibro knife to your neck, and you can feel the warmth of my breath on your skin) type.

  • 1
    Have you read "Lolita?"
    – SFWriter
    Mar 9, 2018 at 20:44
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    Having never seen your only example series, could you explain what the character did and why he was "likeable"? Or move to something a bit more mainstream?
    – hszmv
    Mar 9, 2018 at 21:15
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    Isn't this pretty much a duplicate of OP's own question How to make a deceitful trainwreck of a character likeable? It certainly seems to me that much of the same answers would be applicable.
    – user
    Mar 10, 2018 at 12:05
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    "No, because this question's scope is greater and encompasses the other question" That would seem, then, to make this question possibly too broad. You might want to narrow it down.
    – user
    Mar 10, 2018 at 12:54
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    The question the way you want to ask it is way too broad. The provocative framing doesn't help. Instead of throwing out provocative examples for lolz and sniping at other people and communities, describe your problem, which presumably isn't making Manson likable. In the meantime, I'm joining the people voting for duplicate. Mar 11, 2018 at 2:21

1 Answer 1


Broadly speaking, likeable characters are relatable characters. I'll take as an example Prince Zuko, from Avatar.

At the beginning of the show, Zuko is a bad guy. He is mean to his subordinates and is conquering innocent people. His objective is clearly to capture (and possibly kill) Aang, the main character. Yet, he is very likeable. Why? Because, unlike, Hitler, we can understand why he does what he is doing. If we were put into his shoes, we might be doing the same.

A brief summary of Zuko: he comes from a troubled family. The only person who ever loved him was his mother (now missing). His father dislikes him and prefers his sister. His father humiliated him by burning his face and exiling him. The only way for him to get back home is to capture the Avatar (a pretty much impossible task).

Note that Zuko wants something we all would want in his situation. He wants to go back home and to be loved by his father. An important aspect here is that all of Zuko's unlikeable traits come from external sources this gives us hope that he may redeem himself at the end. This does not mean all flawed characters must be purely victims, but make sure he is at least partially a victim.

Another very important thing to keep in mind while looking at Zuko's success as likeable evil guy is that he actually shows signs of vulnerability and changing through the show. If he never hinted at becoming a better person, audiences would lose their interest. If he never showed his weaknesses, he would come up as bland and two-dimensional.

As a footnote, I will also add that Zuko undeniably has quite a good deal of "cool factor" on his side. He's an exiled badass prince with a burned face who shoots fire. Hell yeah.

Edit: @Piomicron was kind enough to remember me of Uncle Iroh. Iroh does indeed love Zuko, but Zuko is too selfish to realize that. Iroh will also be relevant as the character who motivates Zuko to change and redeem himself.


  • Character should have weaknesses
  • Character should be compelling/relatable

Also helps:

  • Characters shows chances of redemption
  • Character is a victim.
  • Character has strong "cool factor"
  • 1
    What about Uncle Iroh? He loved Zuko!
    – Piomicron
    Mar 10, 2018 at 20:49

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