Re: How can a main character be a complete monster, but still be lovable?

From the top of my head, I can think of a few points:
  • Show a clear reason for whatever nasty things he does. (Revenge, the other party got in his way, etc) For the evulz is often not relatable.
  • Make the receiver of the nasty things not likable. Wronging innocents usually doesn't sit well with the audience.
  • Make the character himself receive consequences for his wrongdoings occasionally, possibly contributing to a potential character development in the future.
Some other people here should be able to give better advices, but for now that's all I can think of.

Re: How can a main character be a complete monster, but still be lovable?

Sometimes you should just let monsters be monsters. After all, how else would Satan get characters that he loves?

Aside from that, it depends slightly on what kind of 'monster' you intend to write. There is a trend of villainous or monstrous characters that have many fans who view them as misunderstood or as victims, like Phantom of the Opera's Erik or even Ashfur from the children's Warrior Cat series. These characters are often 'hopeless romantics' of a sort, and are sometimes justified as being well-meaning victims who suffer for love or ideals. These readings are slightly misleading, but if your character could be viewed through such a lens then it may invite a sympathetic reading.

There are also villains like Milton's Satan, who is often taken to be heroic despite scheming to bring about the Fall of Man. This is partly because Romantic readers didn't take Satan's rebellion against God to be a sign of monstrous pride or sin, but rather as an analogue for the revolutionary sentiment which had arisen after the French Revolution. However, there is a level where Satan's stirring early monologues, and the dichotomy between him and God, impressed readers with their revolutionary fervour to an extent that he was viewed as the hero. His centrality to the narrative also helps to give this impression. Hence, the Fall of Man can seem like a small detail in the light of Satan's grandiose rhetoric, and the prospect of resistance against divine oppression. Further, the piety of 'sinless' Eden can seem like a mark of God's tyranny. Hence, Satan seemed like a hero rather than a monster, but partially because the story was used as an analogy for revolution and various parts were glossed out.

Part of the reason why Satan was able to appear heroic, however, was his charismatic and ambitious monologues. This created a sort of idealised version of his quest against God, which Romantic readers could latch onto as an image of revolution. Since Satan presented a landscape of absolutes, his own misdeeds hence seemed less important in the light of the apparent cosmic drama of a struggle against the divine tyrant.

He was still viewed as something of a victim, though, and Shelley compared him to Prometheus. Since he was viewed as a sort of misunderstood victim, he was viewed as an image of a revolutionary underclass.

So I guess that a sympathetic monster is often one who plays the victim. Bear in mind that you can rarely please all viewers in this way: some will still find the character off-putting, but evil MC readers might find them too pathetic.

Re: How can a main character be a complete monster, but still be lovable?

The Sopranos and Breaking Bad seem to use the frog boiling slowly method. Walter, and Tony are introduced as everyday guys who could be your neighbor. They have families, responsibilities, do many of the same things as everybody else, and have charisma.  If the shows had introduced the characters in their final season form when they had become complete monsters a lot less people would like them. A big part of the Sopranos was also focused on showing Tonys horrible parents, and that he was sort of born into that life. While Breaking Bad had the cancer. 
You can take a normal guy and then have something horrible happen to him pushing him down the path of revenge that ruins him along the way. 

Re: How can a main character be a complete monster, but still be lovable?

I'd recommend waching Youjo Senki. English name: The Saga Of Tanja The Evil
Modern day salary man responsible for laying people off at big companies dies (gets killed) and is reborn in an alternate ww1/ww2 era Germany. Looking for a quiet administrative post in the military, he (reborn female, so she) accidentally ends up as a front line commander

The character is relatable, if not really likable. She's scared, desperate, only looking to not die and get out of the fighting with all limbs attached. Something most of us can accept as a reasonable goal for an individual. The shock is in how completely ruthless she is as she goes about (unsuccessfully) realizing her goal.

A novel on this site (and amazon): Liches Get Stiches. The main character is absolutely lovable as she goes around disemboweling people. It was their own fault to begin with, after all.

A common trope is to make evil characters obviously evil, lacking any redeemable traits. The kick puppies, hate babies, shoot the messenger who brings bad news, kill minions for failing a task once, pick a fight because you look at them disrespectfully, the works. 

That's not the monster you seem to be aiming for. Add some relatable traits. They can make jokes that are actually funny, they can laugh. They can also fear, hate and dislike the things normal people dislike. They can dislike having to be outside in the rain and like a comfy chair near the fireplace. They can enjoy good food and company. They can believe that children are the future and that orphans should be well cared for and slavery forbidden. They can be nice. Monsters like things too, even if it's haute cuisine from their victim's body parts like Hannibal Lecter. 

For me, evil is often defined by their goals and to some extent their methods. Conquer the world to impose their version of the ideal order. At a smaller level, someone who wants to make department chief so he can boss people around while not doing any actual work. and resorts to blackmail and threats to get there. A small evil, but rather common. A monster is someone with normal, relatable goals and normal, relatable emotions, who nevertheless takes actions in a completely rational and reasonable way that are, well, monstrous. He (or she) doesn't want to be department chief, he just wants to do his job and do it well. He's responsible like that. And he won't mind nailing the department chief to the ceiling in bits and pieces if that's what it takes. After that, he goes to a charity event, because those people need his help.

Re: How can a main character be a complete monster, but still be lovable?

Going to say much the same as everyone else.  They have to be backed into a corner or have some other unavoidable type of thing going on.

An example would be the LN her majesty's swarm.

The main character really like RTS and her favorite faction is zerg-like bug monsters.  They treat her like a queen but the whole world sees them as monsters.  She tries to deal with people plainly but someone who associates with flesh rending insects as her kingdom will get prejudged.  Queue one betrayal-filled genocide and a big chunk of the story becomes the monsters trying to cheer up their depressed teenage girl of a queen it is cute. . . in a way. 

Anywho, just an example.

Re: How can a main character be a complete monster, but still be lovable?

Space Wrote: My character may be like Arthur in Red Dead Redemption 2. But younger. Excluding the redemption arc (at least at the beginning).
It's about giving the character likeable qualities. Take Overlord for example. The dude is a villain. And yet, sometimes he's totally a good guy doing good things, and you come to like him for that, and then when others cross him, you want to see the Overlord exercise his excessive power.

Or Lord Vader. We like him because he's badass. Then again, we don't see him killing babies or doing truly disgusting things, but still, he's a villain. Boba Fett is a villain too, and we all love him because he's badass.

If you humanize a character, or at least give the character traits we aspire to or value, then the audience gains sympathy. It's like a pendulum.

Re: How can a main character be a complete monster, but still be lovable?

Morality is a very subjective, personal experience. It's easy to manipulate morality, and is largely defined by a person's environment and perspective. What is moral has been a constantly shifting axis since civilisation began. It can lead good people to do terrible things. Or terrible people to do good things. Dexter is a good example of this. He is by all definitions a monster. But because he aims his monstrosity at other monsters, he becomes redeeming.

We look back a few decades and are horrified by the choices made by people in the past. I'm sure those in the future will judge us in the present too. Because to be better we need to know better, and that is a constant learning experience. We're all humans just trying to figure things out. So if you're looking to make a monster redeemable, make him human first. Decide how his steps led him up to the moment where he made those monstrous decisions. And then show that to the reader.

Or you can show good qualities elsewhere. A man can put a village to the sword, and return home to take care of his ailing wife. He's not redeemable, but he is human.

Or perhaps a hired gun for the mafia who takes care of orphaned children in his spare time, because he was once one of those children. Many people can be monsters through circumstance and not desire.

You can also take the emotion out. Someone who works to a 'code' appeals to the reader in their honesty. There is no malice behind their action, and so the reader emotionally detaches from the monstrous part of their nature.

There are lots of ways of making a monster redeemable, or even just likeable. If they're human first, and monster second, you'll usually hit the mark.

Re: How can a main character be a complete monster, but still be lovable?

I agree with what everyone else is saying.  One character in Fantasy that comes to mind that is clearly a villain but is likeable is Glotka from the Last Argument of Kings series by Joe Abercrombie.  Glotaka is an inquisitor who tortures people to get what he wants.  Lots of murder, bad things.  What makes him likeable?

1. He's funny, self deprecating
2.  He is crippled so we sympathize with him.
3. The reason he was crippled is important with why we like him, he had it good but has fallen on hard times and does not have a lot of options for a better life. 
4. He's not happy with the way people treat him now, people that used to treat him differently before he became a cripple.  Justification.
5. He saves women.
6. He's usually good to the people who are good.
7. He makes fun of the bad people in the world with jokes.
8. He punishes the bad people.
9. He's intelligent and it is fun to see him use his mind.

I think this character is a perfect example of the many ways to make a villain likeable.  The author used a LOT of methods to ensure that the reader had something that would make them like him.

Re: How can a main character be a complete monster, but still be lovable?

Bayonetta is by all means an utter asshole. Not just how she acts towards other characters, but also that cities are literally dropping into magma baths and she doesn't bat an eye about her collateral damage. She ends up having a soft spot for one particular kid, though, and that makes her more human. 

Just give them one soft spot. Maybe they have a pet dog they love above everything else or something. It might have nothing to do with their ideologies and explain nothing about their background, but it will show that at least this character is a human (or whatever they are) and that they have more than one kind of emotion. 

Re: How can a main character be a complete monster, but still be lovable?

Really depends on your definitions. 

- Monster as in an orc? a dragon? something non human? 

or monster' as ins some screwed up piece of human filth who rapes children? Or worse. 

Does 'complete' mean 'all the time', 'acts like a monster in all ways' ? or just some of the time. 

In the extreme of a horrible creature that lives to cause others pain and does so all the time, the only way he is lovable is if the reading is pretty screwed up.

So I'd start with what you mean by 'complete monster'

Re: How can a main character be a complete monster, but still be lovable?

It's not even about having a motivation.  It's about being able to understand the character.  People hate not understanding a person and their motives, so they call them evil.  Tell me, is Tofu from Super Minion evil?  He isn't moving about harming everyone he can.  He has a great many reasons that are very understandable for doing the horrible things he does.  And us as the audience understands them and can even sympathize with them.  It's when the character makes no sense that we recoil.  

I don't even think it's any different than making a good person likeable.  If the character's actions make no sense, I drop the novel.