The bad guy

Should we be fair and show the complexity of the bad guy in our stories? Yes, if the bad guy is to be real, he has to be a complex character with good and bad in him. But I think we have to sin on the side of making him a bad guy. Nothing keeps the reader turning pages like a hateful, murdering evil guy who is blocking our hero at every turn.
Ask yourself – in the story of David and Goliath, what were Goliath’s good characteristics? I certainly don’t know. It seems we write in symbols, good and evil.
We should never leave the reader ambivalent. Does the reader love the good guy and hate the bad guy? Does the reader really care?
Likewise an article should do more than just tell facts. It should have emotion, too.


4 responses to “The bad guy

  1. This is an issue that consumes a fair bit of my thought right now. I guess what you are really saying is that our characters can not be stereotypical and when you write a evil bad guy or gal you need to give them some redeeming qualities. I understand the rationale but at times I think its a lot of hooey. It could be our definition of redeeming qualities. Hannibal Lector really has no redeeming qualities but the writer leads us towards giving him some by writing him as well-mannered, intelligent, and articulate: traits we all wish we had. I think this makes him complex but redeeming… no. Another example of this is Dr. Moriaty. What about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I don’t recall any redeeming qualities in Hyde.
    I think that if a character is well written, he or she can be as evil or as good as the writer wants. But the character needs to be memorable.

    • Despite the advice of countless writing teachers, I’m with you. Go ahead and make the dude as bad as you want. I have a friend who is writing a wonderful story, but the bad guy is not bad enough.

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