My friend Cassie just wrote a post about one of her characters, a bad guy that she has gotten to know through writing about him.  And this got me to thinking about writing characters and how they fit into stories.

My stepson was talking about studying to become a lawyer.  Great Idea, I said.  You are good at arguing, but suggest you join a debate team.  Debate team?  Why?  Because then you get good at arguing a point, whether it be one you agree with or not.

And it struck me, quite often we have to write a story with a character we don’t like, but we have to like them.

Let me clarify that for you, because even I am getting confused.  Sometimes we have “bad guys” in our story, you know, the one that gives the hero(ine) a hard time.  Sometimes we just hate these people, they are only there to advance the story.  But sometimes, we need to investigate further into why they don’t like the hero(ine).  What was it that they didn’t like?  What happened in the past to make them hate the person or is it what they stand for.

Sometimes we need to have a better understanding of our bad guys, before we can write them into the story, so that we can make sure that their ideals are put across.  We don’t have to agree with their ideas or theories, but to understand why they made the decisions they did to become who they are, helps us to write them better.  And if we write them better, we write our hero(ines) better.  Hope that makes sense.

Here is an example.  I had a bad guy in one of my very early stories, and as far as I was concerned, he was down right bad.  But I couldn’t really see his evilness, I couldn’t portray it in the story.  Cassie (ever wonderful woman she is), asked me why he was evil.  That really put me in my place.  Sephron was just evil, there was no two ways about it.  But thinking further about it, I realised that he was full of resentment, his father had rejected him.  His mentor was a dark lord, and trained him in the dark arts.  He chose to use those arts for the purpose of controlling mankind.  He had a hatred of all things good, and worse still, he hated his twin brother.

Now I understood what made Sephron tick, I was able to really write his scenes from a different perspective, from the point of view of someone who had a skewed view of the world, tainted by his upbringing and his mentoring.

So there ends the lessons for today, have fun with writing and remember to always go a little bit deeper into your bad guys, because they might just have a silver lining.

Debating our Characters
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2 thoughts on “Debating our Characters

  • August 13, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    It does make sense. 🙂

    I really admire writers who can let yuou understand the villians thought process. Sure, you still want the hero to knock him off, but its much more satisfing when he does.

    My current issue is I’ve made them to understandable and lost the evilness. Got to work on that.

    By the way, you link to Cassie’s site is broken. She has a hyphen in her address.

  • August 14, 2011 at 7:54 am

    Thanks for that, fixed Cassies link.

    Yes, sometimes they aren’t evil anymore, and really, there is no such thing as an evil character, only someone who has a different opinion to our hero. This is why they are trying to stop them.

    I had to stop looking at it as good guys vs evil or bad guys and start focusing on what their points of difference were and was there any way that they could see eye to eye, or whether they were staid in their ways.


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