Thursday, November 5, 2009

Good...Bad...I'm the guy with the gun.

One of the more interesting conundrums that many writers face is the whole "good-guy/bad-guy" dynamic.  In many cases the writer feels compelled to have a hero and a villain, and they do everything in their power to make the good-guy likable enough that people actually want to see him win.  But then there's the "bad" guy.  The antagonist, if you will.  Nothing, in my opinion, is as boring as a bad guy who is just...well...bad.  "Why'd he blow up the orphanage?"  "Because he's evil!" shrieks the writer.  *snore*

Here's the thing...Everyone has motivation for something, and no one believes themselves to be evil.  Think about it...When you get up in the morning, have you ever said to yourself "I think I'll do something particularly evil today?  What a wonderful day for...*cue music*...EVIL!"  No.  Not really.  Not if you were being serious.  The thing is, every "bad guy" is pretty much doing what they believe is right for them.    Of course, there are a few exceptions, but they are the ones that prove the rule.  So lets look at situations in which an "evil" person is doing what he feels is right:

This man enters a small bare room where a person is laying strapped to a table.  He injects something into him, killing him.  Another person, after watching atrocities performed on his family, decides to exact revenge (which, Karmically speaking, is cool).  Still another finds himself disrespected by someone, and feels that, in order to protect his way of life and his family, must make an example of the person disrespecting him.  So what if the people above are a state-employed executioner, a vigilante-cum-serial-killer, or a street drug-lord?  From their point of view, what they're doing is right.  And that's the crux of the lesson.  Five simple words:

From their point of view...

As writers, we strive to create believable characters that the audience feels some way about.  Love them, hate them, nothing could be worse than have the audience not care about them at all.  In doing so, we have to take the character as a whole and put forth his or her point of view, no matter how messed up that point of view might be.  Look at the most "evil" men in history.  Dollars to doughnuts, none of them believed they were being evil.  They believed that what they were doing was the right thing, from their own twisted point of view.

So when you create your good guy or your bad guy, remember that no good character can be so one-dimensional as to say "he does bad things because he's evil."  He does what he thinks is right in his warped little world, and letting the reader glimpse that world will make him all the more real and all the more chilling.

Until next time...Write on!


  1. Awesome post Scott! Actually a big help in the novel I am working on now. Thank you!

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