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  1. lastresort
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    lastresort Banned

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    Do you have compassion for very evil characters?

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by lastresort, Feb 8, 2016.

    Some human beings are barely human. They are stone cold. This detachment has enabled them to commit murders and violent crimes without any remorse. So do we just lock them up and throw away the key? (sorry about the cliché)
    I watched a documentary about an online predator in England who murdered a 14 year old (Breck), after grooming him for over 12 months online gaming. The murderer was only 17, (about 19 now) but was a very skilled controller and manipulator. I don't know the label for this person: psychopath, sociopath, narcissist, paedophile, sadist? Apparently the murderer was an abandoned child himself and God knows how awful his own childhood was. Possibly molested and unspeakable suffering at the hands of dysfunctional parents.
    If I were to write a story of this predator ,as the main character and narrator, I would have to have compassion for him, wouldn't I? But part of me wants to just forget the idea and cross his name off, as another "wicked" and "evil" criminal, undeserving of my attention.
    As writers then, do we have have an obligation to find some nugget or jewel of humanity beneath the surface, in this case?
    Hitler was maybe the worst serial killer of all, even he didn't do the dirty work himself. Has anyone bothered to find a redemptive quality in him? Or would that be a wate of time? I'm not a wannable social worker by the way. I just tend to agonise over these things. :)
     
  2. lastresort
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    lastresort Banned

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    I felt compassion for the main character in Breaking Bad, but not by the end when he was just a bloody monster!
     
  3. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    You're always going to have a market for a strong free-will crowd, in which your story would emphasize choice and indifference to others' suffering, especially vis-a-vis his own expectations of fairness for himself. But, by tilting the focus even just a bit to why, for example, he expects fairness and why it might be so upsetting for him not to have it, it could be the start of the totally opposite treatment (i.e., the idea he's just as much a victim as anyone else -- the other extreme).

    I think the writer's responsibility is to be as honest as possible, whatever their philosophy of ethics or extent of belief in pathologizing deviance. And from the victim's standpoint, that honesty could be how inhuman the villain was, just as the honesty could be how sad of a circumstance to do twisted and depraved things. This is really the point of literature, sharing truths.
     
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  4. lastresort
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    lastresort Banned

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    brianlff thanks. From your post it does seem like a delicate balancing act, if you lean too heavily in the protagonist's' favour . I think the Breaking Bad theme is one which will be popular from now on, so many variations. I saw a British series called "Inside Men" which tried to do similar but it failed miserably in my view. I have a vague notion of one in the same vein, trying to make the main character have humour in the face of calamity. A redeeming quality such as loyalty to a loved one might work too , as well.
     
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  5. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    It's a balancing act, to be sure, and the funny thing is, not everyone will agree on whether a villain is deserving of compassion. Let's pretend for a moment that Umbridge from the Harry Potter series is like that because her parents abused the hell out of her and she acts like this to reclaim the childhood she never had and to have some measure of control. Granted, I tend to confuse compassion with excusing someone for their bad behavior, the point I'm saying is that it all just depends on how the readers perceive that character. To one reader, she would be deserving of compassion. To another -- perhaps vindictive reader -- she deserves nothing less than the Dementor's Kiss.
     
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  6. lastresort
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    lastresort Banned

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    thanks Link, still trying to figure what "Dementor's Kiss" is referring to.
     
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    It's the thing they do in the books. They suck your soul out through your mouth and leave you a lifeless husk devoid of any emotions or feelings. You're always cold.
     
  8. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Those people are Psychopaths, I think?
     
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