1. TenderHeart
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    TenderHeart Member

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    Plot with no good guys.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by TenderHeart, Jun 9, 2008.

    I am working on a story, and it just keeps getting darker and darker. The main character is introduced as a very bad man who does bad things for an evil organization.

    It then has a flashback which is most of the story on how he came to be such a monster. While, I can sympathize with him, in the end there is just no way to like him.

    The entire story has few if any truly good guys/gals in it.

    Can a story really carry itself with such a dark message and a figure that you just can't like? The best I can do is make his motives understandable, but that is about as far as most normal people would be able to go.
     
  2. AdamLeliel
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    AdamLeliel Member

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    The fiction world needs more bad-guy orientated stuff, I'd say. I'd be interested in reading such a thing (but I can only speak for myself).
     
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  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A lot of crime fiction falls into this category, not to mention horror fiction.

    In TV, the series The Shield qualifies too, it's bad cops against even worse scum, including some of their supervisors.
     
  4. TenderHeart
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    TenderHeart Member

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    That is true.

    Maybe I am just worrying about someone coming across the finished product and reading it and thinking maybe I was insane or something.

    If the story goes the way I have laid it out, The reader will feel the need to shower after finishing it.
     
  5. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    If there are no people that can be classified as "good," that just adds a sense of realism. Face it, how many of us are as noble as the vast majority of heroes in fiction? It's perfectly fine if all of your characters are exposing their dark sides.

    However, if even you don't like the main character, there may be a problem. To my understanding, the readers are supposed to like the main character in some way. He is the main character, after all, and it is his story. If he's supposed to be evil, give him some personality trait the readers can understand and accept. If even you don't like him, how can you expect anybody else to?

    I understand there are exceptions. And I think a story where the main character is a bad guy is a good idea. But personally, I wouldn't read a story starring a character I found impossible to like. If I may, I'd suggest looking at examples of Ted Dekker's villains. They're all scum and rotten to the core, but he always gives them unique traits that make them interesting and likeable.
     
  6. Trollhammaren
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    Trollhammaren Member

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    The Blade Itself is a book where all the characters are real gits, and it's brilliant. Don't think you're insane, I love obvonxious characters. :)
     
  7. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    I have stories that elicit that kind of response, too. :)

    The most important thing is that your characters are 'real' - they don't necessarily need to have redeeming qualities as such, but if they have aspects of their personalities that come across as intrinsically human, then the reader should be able to become engaged with them on some level.

    A great example of this kind of witing is Bret Easton Ellis' The Informers. It is an utterely disturbing read (18+ as well, so I recommend it on the proviso that you are at least that ;)), filled with characters that make your skin crawl, but it fascinates and holds attention none the less.
     
  8. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    Most good people do bad things sometimes, so even if your characters are despicable, as long as they're believable, a reader should be able to understand where they're coming from (at least some of the time). And many people are willing to put up with bad guy characters, as long as they're interesting. I adore some of my bad guys whom I would absolutely despise if they were real people because, as the writer, I can get in their heads and find the human side of them which redeems them from being TOTAL monsters.

    IMO I think readers like that are the ones who have the problem, not the writers of said material. People who can't differentiate between WRITER and STORY need to learn to figure that out.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    unfortunately, bret easton ellis and chuck palahniuk made their millions doing that...
     
  10. Milady
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    Milady Contributing Member

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    Protagonists don't have to be "good". Neither do the "bad guy's" antagonists. I could go into a whole philosophical debate about the meaning of "good", but here's a better idea--explore that in your novel.
     
  11. Marloy
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    Marloy Contributing Member

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    I think it depends on if you feel the need for your guy to have a sense of good in him. If he's just a real messed up man, sympathy for him is more easily felt. But if he is just one terrible brute who's soul is as black as night and wasn't even born with a conscience, the whole thing becomes more difficult.

    There are many examples of this, in every type of tale. Take the story of Sweeny Todd, for example. He was a once very content man who, for the most part, beside being a human and having normal humanistic flaws, was a good guy. Then his life takes a toll for the worst when people do him wrongs, and he ends up being a vengeful monster slashing up innocents and baking them into pies. Not a likeable thing. But, I feel anyway, that even if you don't like the guy, you can sympathize with him for the fact that the horrors he went through could cause any man to want revenge, even if they didn't take it to such an extreme.

    Ask yourself if you're trying to put any type of moral center to the story. If you can instill a sort of deep-seated cause for the main guy's wrongdoings, we might not necessarily like him, but we'll understand and possibly relate to him. In the end not Sweeny nor anyone gains satisfaction, and even in the midst of such gore and violence we get the message that vengeance is blind. So you can definitely make this work.
     
  12. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Aren't there already enough books about the congress? LOL!
     
  13. TenderHeart
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    TenderHeart Member

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    Thanks for the great feedback. I have centered the character around core principles that he holds to. Which is if he owes a debt he pays a debt and he expects others to do the same.

    Also, I am going to try and show how a seemingly nice and well adjusted boy can become a monster. I am going to use his love for his childhood sweetheart to do that. I don't want him to be a supernatural monster either, I want people to see some of themselves in him. When he makes his choice to follow a dark path, it will be of his own free will and I want the reader to have a moment where they wonder what their decision would be.

    I know lofty goal, but at least it is a goal.
     
  14. TenderHeart
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    TenderHeart Member

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    LOL :)

    Hey now that is a good idea. Have a true bad guy get himself elected to congress so he can do even more bad stuff and find the place so rotten with corruption and evil that he turns into an Anti-Hero and uses his knowledge of crime to bring down the worst offenders and finally get voters sick enough to start over with a new batch.

    Yeah..Yeah now that could work.
     
  15. Brode
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    Brode Member

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    I'd call it an allegory for real life. In the end, there are very few good guys and all sorts of bad guys. The story doesn't necessarily need an Atticus Finch to mean something.
     
  16. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    I'm going to go against the grain here and say I wouldn't read a book like that mainly for the same reason everyone else thinks this is a brilliant idea: its too much like real life.

    Real life is crap, and I don't need to be reminded of that when I'm reading to relax. To paraphrase Lloyd from Noises off: I want to be taken out of myself, and preferably not put back again.
     
  17. InkDancer
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    InkDancer Senior Member

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    No one in real life thinks of themselves as a bad guy. In their head, they're the good guy, and the people whose interests run counter to theirs are the bad guys.

    What you're describing sounds like a tricky, but ultimately interesting thing to pull off. If you manage to get the reader to like your main character, to relate to him, and then walk him down that dark road, you will force your reader to consider their entire notions of good and evil and all that morality entails.

    The risk is losing the reader's interest if the story gets too dark, and the line won't be the same for everybody.
     
  18. pippin1710
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    I don't think they have to like him but relate to him
     
  19. Brode
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    Brode Member

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    It's a valid point, but there are a lot of people who don't think like that. Enough to market such an idea, that's for sure.
     
  20. Kelly Ishii
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    Kelly Ishii New Member

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    'American Psycho' had a main character that was not a 'good guy,' by any means. But the reason it worked was because there was a sense that he was a normal person underneath, much in the same way there was an insane person underneath the calm exterior.

    Don't underestimate the value of snuff.

    As far as movies are concerned, the Japanese films 'Sword of Doom' had a main character that killed and raped without remorse; he even ended up winning in the end, per se. Same with 'Ichi the Killer,' about the bloody and visceral face-off between a man that represents pure masochism, and another that epitomizes sadism.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that someone being purely bad and evil isn't, in itself, a negative. If it's purposeless, or without some device that creates the suspense of disbelief, than that's what, in my opinion, fails a story.

    But, as I said, there are still buyers and readers of that type of stuff where there is no reason, and that, ironically, is the reason.

    Hope that's not too confusing...

    Kelly Ishii
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    capote's 'in cold blood' is another example of nearly pure evil fueling a bestseller...
     
  22. Stinger
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    Stinger Senior Member

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    "Good" and "evil" are meaningless words in art of creating characters. That's what I say.
     

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