We need a strong bad guy (antagonist) in our stories. But he or she must be real and real people have good qualities and bad qualities. They are the heroes of their own lives. The more real they are, the more dangerous they are. (at least that’s my opinion)
If we were painters and we wanted to paint war, we would use a lot of red. We would go over the top a bit, exaggerate the war so the viewer would get our message. I think the same is true of writing. Yes, our characters must be real, but they must also be evil. Paint with strong strokes.
Who are the characters we hate?
- We don’t like someone who kills for their own needs (e.g. money) or a terrorist, but we have sympathy for someone who kills to avenge another’s death.
- We don’t like sadists or bullies. A good example was Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
- We dislike someone who appoints himself to a high position.
- An oath breaker – we don’t care for such a person
- The same with an arrogant man or woman or someone with a bad attitude, a whiner or a braggart.
It’s very hard to make an unpleasant person likable. So be careful with that character arc. If you start way over to one side, it might be hard to get to the other side. Mr. Burns can’t become Ned Flanders.
Consult Orson Scott Card’s book – Character & Viewpoint
Images courtesy of: terriblejokes.wordpress.com