166 – The Importance of Character Likability

The Mythcreant Podcast

If you’ve ever put down a story because you didn’t care what happened, there’s a good chance it was suffering from poor character likability. That’s our topic for this week, and we are joined once again by our excellent guest host Sarah. What is likability? How does it affect the story? Do you have enough of it? What if you liked a character and someone else didn’t? Listen to find out the answers!

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Have a question or comment for our hosts? Send it to [email protected]

Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

How Useful Are Kurt Vonnegut’s Eight Rules of Writing? 

West World

Jerkass Woobie

Team Rocket






The Last Jedi

The Magicians





Queer Coding Disney Villains

Doctor Horrible’s Singalong Blog

Michael Burnham

Star Trek Discovery

P.S. Our bills are paid by our wonderful patrons. Could you chip in?

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  1. Fay Onyx

    You talk a lot about the importance of competence for likability and villain threat level. In fact competence is frequently brought up in the podcast. Perhaps it is time for an episode on competence discussing the details of how to make heroes and villains appear competent and what pitfalls to avoid.

    Maybe you feel that you’ve already discussed it enough. That would be fine. If you are interested, however, here are some possible questions to think about:

    ​What makes a character feel competent (showing verses telling)?
    How do you portray a character that is super competent in something the writer isn’t competent in?
    How is competence different than candy?
    How can you make a character fail competently?
    How does the competence of a villain affect the perceived competence of a hero and vice versa?

    • Fay Onyx

      How to make things hard for a hero without making them incompetent? Or maybe it is important for heroes to sometimes be less competent in certain areas so they have room to grow? (You’ve previously mentioned that one reason Hermione is a side-kick rather than the main character is her extreme competence.)

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Those are all great questions Fay. I’ll take a look at our upcoming podcast topics and see what we can do.

      • Fay Onyx

        I have thought of an additional question:

        Low competence characters can be frustrating and harder to identify with if they keep majing obviously terrible choices. Are there levels of high competence that are hard to identity with? Is this different between heroes and villains?

  2. Julia

    Great points about an outstanding karma balance (good or bad) affecting character likability. The character I thought of when you brought it up was Sansa Stark. Season One she’s the pretty noble girl who does everything right and gets approval from the adults around her. It almost seemed like she was there just to show how much of an misfit Arya was. Once their father is killed and Sansa starts racking up the negative karma, she becomes sympathetic. When she starts showing wisdom and competency by the end of the most recent season, she becomes someone you can root for.

  3. river

    This was helpful for my current writing. Talking about Michael Burnham and whether she has larger goals made me think about my MC’s larger goals.

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