How do you go about writing characters that you don’t identify with, or even find abhorrent, as good as the ones you like?
The same way many actors find playing villains liberating, I often enjoy writing characters who, in real life, I would actively avoid.
For instance, in Go, the four guys who go to Vegas in the middle chapter are sort of my bete noire. Simon is id-driven, wantonly impulsive, and only gets away with it because of his accent. Marcus is too righteous by half, the self-appointed leader who only got the title by picking the least-capable of travelling companions. Tiny is a faux-Black chihuahua, and Singh is sort of a perma-stoner. They’re all little lizard brains, and I kinda love them, though I wouldn’t want to be within 20 feet of any of them.
[For the record, the character in Go who I best relate to is Claire. Like her, I’m the one who’s always trying to be the voice of reason. But eventually I give up, and hook up with the hot, scary guy.]
In many ways, it can be easier to write characters with whom you don’t have a lot in common. Unlike a novel, where you’re digging inside a character’s head, screenwriting is about what you see and hear. Even the most rigorous self-examination probably won’t reveal the dialogue and behavior you would notice just watching actual people going about their lives. Sometimes, the most fascinating people are the most annoying, or the most abhorrent.
So don’t strive for likeability. It’s a fool’s errand. Rather, aim for believability. Make sure your characters are consistent, and real within the universe you’ve built for them. The audience will happily watch loathsome characters doing terrible things, as long as you keep them engaging.