musing, National Endowment for the Arts, Tim Allen

Musing 11/7/18 – Likability in Your Characters.

As of a few days ago, I stopped watching Last Man Standing.

Which is a shame because it’s hilarious.  I can enjoy a good sitcom but I tend to look at anything I watch from a writer’s POV.  It drives Big Brother crazy but he understands why.

One of the daughters, Eve has become absolutely unlikable.  And no this is nothing against the actress who plays her.  She’s very good with the material given, so really, I’m blaming the writers.  You would think they already know that even bad guys have to have some measure of likability.

There have been many articles and videos about this subject.  I’ll likely suggest this to some of my favorite Booktubers.  So I’m just going to touch briefly on the subject.

But wait, you say, how can the bad guy be likable? Well Wreck it Ralph and Felonious Gru aside, any writer will tell you that even bad guys have to have one redeeming quality or they’ll be unbelievable and of course, thoroughly unlikable.

The way I do it and the way I’ve heard other authors do it, is to give the villain a plausible reason for his actions.  Perhaps (s)he’s seeking revenge for a wrong done to him/her but (s)he goes about this with ruthless efficiency, determined to stay on top no matter what and getting rid of anyone in his/her way.  In the antag’s mind this is justified by the previous wrong.

On the other hand, a good guy may be doing wrong as well and making mistakes but perhaps they grow and change as a person, learning from those mistakes. Nothing they do is out of malice normally, because that would make them an a**hole.  And not the good kind of a**hole.

But when the good guy becomes a scheming, snobbish, immature and downright cruel character, I stop reading.  In the most recent episode I viewed, involved attempts to keep the Arts Program in the local high school from being cancelled.  I don’t believe I need to say what the Arts mean to me. For those of you who have never seen it, Eve is the sports-loving tomboy, a cliché but a character archetype that I like.  Check out the episode, Season 4,  Episode 5, The School Merger.

I won’t get to deep into it but Eve basically dissed a friend and the Arts program because she couldn’t draw. The scene starts with her asking a friend who is in the band to help her on the art project, then says, “Well, hopefully they’ll kill the arts program.” The friend then tells her she’s counting on a music scholarship to get into college and without the band her dreams will be crushed.  So what does Eve do? Shrugs it off like it’s not important and when the friend asks, “Any chance they’ll get rid of football.”  Eve laughs at her and insults her intelligence for even thinking the Arts were more important than sports.  At the end of the episode, you see Eve seeming — I suppose remorseful but there’s no way to tell and nothing further is said about it.  The episode ends with Eve’s friend playing America the Beautiful on her oboe but can’t continue because she’s so heartbroken.

But that’s just one of the MANY annoying and uncalled for things the character has been doing lately.  Watch a few episodes if you want to get a better picture.

Perhaps the writers will allow the character to grow and change but I’ve seen so many episodes with her being a total bi— bad person — that I’m not willing to wait for them.
And if this were a book, not only would I stop reading it but I’d return it if I could and give it away if I couldn’t.

So remember it’s easy to make even the worst character a bit likable if you just take a moment to consider the bigger picture.

Peace ~



*And lets not forget she wants to get into West Point.  As ex-Army I can honestly say, it ain’t gonna happen!

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