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The likeable protagonist in films and novels

The likeable protagonist: Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The likeable protagonist: Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

In his book, Writing Screenplays that Sell, Michael Hague, stresses the need to create a likeable protagonist if our stories are to succeed.

Likeable protagonists make for more popular films and novels. Unlikable heroes make for unpopular ones.

“A likeable protagonist is exceptional, interesting, eccentric. He stands out from the crowd. He is the sort of person we would like to know long after the story has ended.”

Here are four simple but effective ways to write a likeable protagonist in a screenplay or novel:

  • Make your protagonist someone who represents something bigger than himself. Indiana Jones is likeable and heroic not only because he is able to do things no one else can—his actions showcase his passions and skills—but because he fights to preserve the values that define and enrich society. This increases his aura.
  • Make the protagonist funny and entertaining, as in Deadpool.
  • Make her a kind, good person, as are the heroes in Norma Ray, or Crimes of the Heart.
  • Write a protagonist who is tough, or good at what he does, as in Gladiator.

Using one or more of these traits, indeed, preferably all four of them, will make your protagonist more likeable and engaging. This is vital in helping your audience or readers to form a relationship with the character—one that will endure throughout the story and beyond.

Most importantly, establish these positive traits as soon as possible—especially if you are dealing with a complex, flawed characters. Once an audience gets to like the character it will more easily tolerate his or her flaws.


Craft likeable and engaging protagonists for your screenplays and novels by having them display likeable traits early, before exposing their flaws. This will grant us time to get to like them.

Check out my latest video on writing compelling characters!