There is a common misconception that in order to make a character likable they must be popular, beautiful, or talented. While this could make a protagonist likable, most of the time, it doesn't. In fact, it often does the opposite.
Here is are 5 qualities that make a character more likable.
Relate-ability- readers want to envision themselves when they are reading a book. If a character is too perfect, oftentimes, people can't relate and won't root for the protagonist. Think of most people you know in your life, are they rich? Do they look flawless? Is everything perfect in their life? For a majority of people, no. Try to make an extraordinary situation happen to an ordinary person. Take Harry Potter, for example; Harry is an ordinary boy who happens to find out he is a Wizard.
Gratitude- people enjoy reading about a character who expresses gratitude. It is a basic human instinct. It is even possible to have an anti-hero, someone who is cynical and sour who still at times shows hints of gratitude. Having this trait will make the character become someone worth reading about. A literary character who often expresses gratitude is Bella from Twilight. Bella often gushes about Edward, often questions how lucky she is, expresses gratitude even when she receives an old beat-up car.
A flaw- having a flaw not only makes the character more relatable, but it also gives the character more depth and makes the plot interesting. Everyone has a weakness in life, so when we read about a character with a flaw, they become more real. An example of a flaw could be a physical weakness, a hard emotional background, a personality trait that leads them to chaotic events. Example Macbeth's ambition.
Empathy- as a society, we have a basic code of ethics. For example, most people agree killing is wrong. When we read about someone who kills without remorse, we are immediately repelled to the character. Conversely, when a character shows high empathy, we, in turn, care for them. Create scenes showing your protagonist caring for others, sympathizing. Even a good villain has moments of empathy. Think about the movie Maleficent; she is the villain, yet we see her caring for Aurora.
Selflessness - Another human instinct is to root for a hero—someone who is selfless and brave. A good example of this is Katniss from Hunger Games. In the beginning of the book we see Katniss volunteer her life to save her sister Prim. As a reader we instantly bond with her. She is a character that we now want to worry about and care about because she has express selflessness.
These are just a few characteristics to consider for your book. Which ones do you see in your protagonist?