We writers sometimes find ourselves writing a character that we despise. In order to include tension and conflict, we must introduce people into our settings who disagree, and are sometimes disagreeable. We can revel in our ability to create people, or it can be an accident. So, I want to think about what happens when we create evil characters.
Often a negative character is a vital part of our storytelling. A tale with powerful antagonist is a common feature in fiction writing that has an action or adventure feel. Even stories that attempt to portray realistic events in the world can use negative individuals. In thrillers or suspense stories, there are often villains who represent criminal intent and actions. The gangster, dictator, or bandit is recognizable as a character that represents real people in the past present or future. Even a dragon in a story can sometimes represent evil.
On the other hand, sometimes our protagonist is not perfect. We sometimes can write a main character who has flaws that can drive them to do unfortunate or bad actions. And, we writers, from time to time, are surprised by the actions taken by our characters. We may intend for someone to be positive and a good, but they take a different path as the story develops and may not be as positive an influence as we thought when designing them.
I asked other writers if they write characters they despise? Fellow writer, Stephanie Barr, shared her thoughts, “I do. I have characters I despise and some that exasperate me. The former are my villains, the latter I find ways to grow fonder of them as I learn more about them.”
“My protagonists and most of their fellows I love because a novel is a long time to spend with someone you really don’t love. It’s not that they don’t have flaws or aspects that are frustrating. It’s that it’s a whole package and some of their quirks and foibles are part of what makes me love them.”
I asked Jeanette O’Hagan her opinion, “Hmmm yes. I do write characters I despise – because they are petty, vindictive, cruel, arrogant, abusive – though if I’m not careful, I begin to sympathize with them 😉 Not their actions, but perhaps the reasons behind why they act that way, why they’ve become the person they are – and then they may change – have a character arc of their own or perhaps show flashes of humanity amid the general nastiness. I think the bigger and more important an antagonist is, the more multi-faceted they should be.”
As authors, we have the power to create our desired world in the pages of our story. Perhaps, when we create a negative character, we can take satisfaction when we are finally able to plot their demise. Even figuring out the cruelty of their end. We can be merciful, or give them their just desserts. For writers, this may be a form of self-therapy. What your opinion?