Not all characters are likeable. In fact, some are downright despicable. Yet for some readers, such characters are compelling. The reader wants to know what motivates the character and what he will do next.
Perhaps the character has been a victim of emotional abuse since childhood. She is quiet and shy, prefers to be alone and fears crowds. She has few, if any, friends. She never leaves the house. Yet something happens that forces her out of her protective shell and into the world.
Readers might enjoy seeing how this character interacts with the world and whether or not she is changed by her experiences.
What about the abuser? Why kinds of things has he done to the victim? Is the abuse emotional, physical, sexual or all three? For how long has the abuse been going on? What happens when the victim fights back?
Think about the serial killers you see in television shows such as Criminal Minds. Each week another one is set loose in the community. She picks her victims sometimes by random, sometimes with intent. Perhaps the color of the hair triggers a strong emotional reaction. Maybe it’s the shape of the face or the size of the feet. Perhaps she hates all teachers because she was once bullied by a teacher.
Your task is to create a situation in which your protagonist is not likeable. He fits one of the profiles above, or maybe one you’ve been thinking about for a while.
Give your character at least one victim and then put him in action. Let the reader see what he does, in rich detail. Do not hesitate to include gore, if that’s what turns your abuser on. But be careful. Too much gore when not important to the story might turn off your readers.
This will be a challenging topic. I’d like to close in my usual way by saying have fun with this one, but it does not feel appropriate.