I want to keep this brief, but the protagonist in my story is a prejudiced adolescent. Her views are outdated, but the whole point of the story was to have her improve.

I know flawed characters are ideal, but people don't tend to like characters with a sense of prejudice, because it's looking at another group of people as less. But it's part of her character and part of my story that I want to tell.

I am currently struggling with making her likable when she obviously has some issues with people who aren't like her. Tips?

5 Answers 5


Origin Story:

Lots of people are self-centered and deeply opinionated as teens, so we all start out that way. Plus, we take attitudes from our authority figures, friends, parents, and other family. I'm not sure how old the character is, but in this aspect, the younger the better. Give them a 'justification' for why they are the way they are. But also why they might be willing to change. Show the bias pounded into them, but also the kernel of redemption that can grow into being the good, lovable person you want them to be.

Justification: So perhaps Mom talks about those vile (insert epithet here) staring at her in the store, who she's sure wanted to rape her. Uncle Joe has a business with derogatory images on the wall and a Confederate battle flag, and openly speaks about lazy minorities. But Dad will say epithets and then act embarrassed, like he's ashamed at what came from his mouth, quietly saying things in private that make you realize he's saying it to fit in and out of habit. Needless to say, your MC is Dad's favorite.

Doubt: So show the attitudes coming through, but start with justification. Then add doubt. I remember listening to a story about a skinhead doing pick-up work for a Jewish business owner who treated him the same and gave the skinhead bonuses for working hard. The skinhead's response was, "You make it hard to hate you." The same skinhead had a very young daughter who was half Italian, and others in his group were prejudiced against Italians. That was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Personal action: Remember, everyone believes themselves to be good and fair, and your MC shouldn't be doing anything blatantly unfair (they just believe the people who are others are somehow inferior and/or bad, and thus suspect). Don't use these examples, but find personal ways where others show kindness and fairness. The more extreme hate of others around the MC will make them want to distinguish themselves from their more extreme counterparts. Perhaps your MC witnesses an attack on a minority, and intervenes because they feel it is inherently deeply inappropriate to treat even inferior people that way. This opens the character to gratitude, or grudging respect, possibly even a friendship with the group they are biased against.


Big changes often come because of people we know or believe in. You can achieve this by creating personality conflict(s) between her and her best friend/co-worker/parents/siblings/lover/someone she comes to know better as the story progresses... you get the point, but don't create too many conflicts with different people as that will put her in too much of bad light. Protagonists should have redeemable qualities if you want readers to like/at least pity them, so think about how you want to introduce that change in your main character, depending on the plot. In any case, the things she didn't believe in must change, either because she gets hurt or those she love get hurt(thereby making things personal.) In the end, her relationships with people must change because of the change of her heart. Those she viewed as stupid before must change now, or something like that, to show her growth.

As for how you begin the novel, be careful to not focus too much on showing her negatives because that'll annoy many readers into giving up on the story unless maybe it's mentioned in the blurb that the MC is going to change.

Also, you can't say that someone's bad or prejudiced just because their views are outdated unless you're implying that those outdated views are considered morally wrong in present times.


Where did she get her views? Was she raised in a certain way, growing up in an environment where people shared these outdated views?

Readers are more likely to forgive a characters's prejudice if they understand where it's coming from. If she was influenced in this way by her parents or guardians, this will also automatically create conflict, leading to the reader rooting for the character as she tentatively begins questioning her views.

Depending on how close the narration is to the character, you could also show that her rejection of others stems from fear or confusion rather than outright hatred. Each time she interacts with this different group of people, she could understand them a bit better (reducing her confusion) and slowly come to the conclusion that there's no reason to fear them, either.


A prejudiced likeable character ... I'm thinking of Miss Daisy (from Driving Miss Daisy). You see her good points as well as her prejudice. Or the young woman in Gentleman's Agreement ... she wasn't mean and for her to be rejected by Gregory Peck's character is a bit of a shock. But her subtle prejudice came through.

It's been a while since I watched both of those movies, but I think they contain examples of prejudiced characters who are likeable due to their other characteristics.

  • 1
    Miss Daisy from what? Can you give more details on what these characters did right for those of us who aren't familiar with the source material?
    – Laurel
    Commented Apr 6, 2022 at 22:27

People aren't born bad, Get to the root of why she acts the way she does then throughout the story put her in a situation where she starts to challenge her morals.

  • 1
    You are new here. Welcome to Writing SE. Please consider taking the Tour, and visit the Help Page about how to ask and answer. Commented Dec 22, 2020 at 15:14

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