In the comments of Monday's post, Melissa brought up the point that Malfoy does have lovable qualities as the series progresses. This is true. As the series progressed, I definitely felt some love for Malfoy. Besides that, I've definitely seen some fanfiction writers (yes, I do read that on occasion), who've made him and a few of the more dastardly characters very lovable without sacrificing much of the back story and basic personality of the characters. Thus, we have proof, it can be done.
Even the most unlovable seeming character can garner the love and sympathy of the reader. Here's how: Give the reader something to love.
That sounds simplistic, but it's true. In the midst of all the bad and wicked, give the reader a nice quality, a good trait, a relatable aspect, something for the reader to grasp on to.
Think of it this way: Most people in the world are not wholly good or wholly evil. You know how good guys have those nice things called flaws and weaknesses that make them human? Well bad guys have these nice things called redeeming qualities that do basically the same thing.
Redeeming qualities can be a lot of things. Maybe your villain has a habit of killing off the henchmen who fail to serve him badly. That's not lovable. But maybe he also loves dogs and has a habit of taking care of any strays he finds. People love people who loves dogs. Or maybe your anti-hero loves his mother and visits her every weekend. It's a lot harder to hate a guy who's nice to his mama.
The Obligatory Harry Potter Reference (Because the bit about Malfoy earlier was simply not sufficient): Snape. In a large way, it would be easy very to hate on Snape. After all, in the beginning of the first book, he picks on Harry just because Harry's James's kid. In the second book, Snape desperately tries to get Harry and Ron expelled after the Wamping Willow thing, and then he tries to get Harry kicked off the Quidditch team. Really, you could go on and on. Or, if you don't want to think too hard, just listen to what Harry and Ron say about him for most of the series. If the heroes don't like him, he must be evil, right?
But, alternatively, Snape was really in love with Lily Evans, even after she married the guy who used to beat him up in school. In the first book, Snape saved Harry's life. In the second book, Snape brewed the Mandrake Restorative that revived Hermione. When you look at Snape in that light, it's a lot harder to hate him. Don't you love him just a little bit? I do.
Have there ever been characters you hated even though everyone loved them? Why'd you like 'em so much?