1. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Writing nasty characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by doggiedude, Jun 26, 2016.

    I've increasingly found it difficult to make a character intentionally dislikable. I'm not sure why. I'm working on a small short story and I want the character to be this stereotypical redneck asshole that the reader isn't supposed to like. I have every intention of killing him by the end of the story but I still find it hard.
    I actually typed out the line - "He kicked at the dog."
    Then i changed it to - "He gave the dog a mild kick."
    Eventually, I ended up with - "He swept his foot at the dog, encouraging him to get up."
    Why? Because I felt bad for this fictional dog! What the hell is my problem?
     
  2. Dark Severance
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    Dark Severance Member

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    It sounds like you are placing yourself in the character itself, instead of treating your character like a separate person. We make these characters, we make the story, the world and environment and as such they have parts of us with them. It can be difficult to "not care" about one's creation but you do because it is yours and in a sense represents you.

    You have to break out of the mindset. You are a director, writer, the creator but not actually the character nor does it represent you. When creating a character I don't like, I tend to base it on someone I know and don't already like. There are plenty of choices to choose from bullies, ignorant people, even those in today's media. Although I'm creating a character partially based on them, in personality, it makes it easier for me to not treat it as "mine". I am able to take a true third person view because I don't like that person, I write about what I don't like, they do the things I don't like, etc.
     
  3. Moth
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    Moth Active Member

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    "His boot struck the dog's skull with a loud thunk, instantly followed by the beast's yelp."

    Is it that you see the scene in your mind and the visceral disdain you get prevents you from wanting to write it, even knowing that it's all fictional? If so, then you're letting the fact that you have humanity get in the way. Empathy is a writer's greatest tool, but it can cripple your writing if you let it.

    Or the character in your mind might not fit the stereotype you're trying to fit him in, making him more human and less of a caricature.
     
  4. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The lead protagonist of my new Urban Fantasy novel is a drug dealer turned bank robber slash sexist pig, and one of the lead protagonists in my Doctor Who fanfic is a bloodthirsty vigilante serial killer. My advice, coming from what I feel has worked for me:

    Don't think of yourself as writing your character as a bad person, think of yourself as writing a bad person that some of your readers will think of as good people. There are people like your character who exist in the real world, but who get away with cruelty because other people don't think there's anything wrong with what they're doing to their victims, and they need you to show them what is wrong with these people.

    Don't feel bad for the victims of your character's cruelty, feel bad for the victims of the same people in the real world who are allowed to get away with it because others don't see the problem.
     
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  5. JLT
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    JLT Active Member

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    Two things:

    1. No bad person thinks that he or she is a bad person, just misunderstood or disrespected. That dog had it coming, didn't he? Explain why, in the eyes of the character.

    2. It sometimes helps to explain how that character got bad. Early trauma? PTSD? Got beaten up every day by older brother/classmate/gang members? You don't necessarily have to make him sympathetic, but you should give the reader some hook to explain the badness, so that the reader can assimilate the character into his or her own experience and make sense of it. Otherwise, you're just going to create a cardboard character that won't resonate with the reader. I am so done with overdone evildoers in the movies, on television, and in modern books. They just don't seem real to me any more. They're just vehicles.

    When Kurt Vonnegut's father talked with him shortly before passing on, he said "You've never written a book that had a villain in it." Vonnegut replied, "That's one of the things I learned in the war."
     
  6. A man called Valance
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    A man called Valance Active Member

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    Base your character on the nastiest man you've ever known. If that's not nasty enough then add the nastiest elements of the second nastiest man you've ever known. And so on.

    Something else... being a natural born miserable cuss I seldom, if ever, laugh at loud at things I read. A smile of amusement maybe, a grin even, sometimes. But this hit the spot...

    "He gave the dog a mild kick."

    Yeah, I laughed out loud. Thanks doggiedude.
     
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  7. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Well, some people do recognise themselves as selfish people. But yes.
     
  8. JLT
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    JLT Active Member

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    But they don't think that their selfishness is a bad thing, generally. Some even think it's the best thing about them.
     
  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Trust me, I'm the same exact way. I can't bring myself to let my characters get hurt, which is ironic given that I've got villains who are more than perfectly capable (and willing) to do the hurting. You've got to remember this, though: you are not your characters. You are merely the guy/gal writing out what they do. You can understand why they're doing it without condoning it.

    Here, let me try something real quick:

    Arnold shot Amos in the chest. The boy gasped, clutched his bleeding chest as he fell to his knees. He was dead when he struck the ground.

    See? I just killed my blind colonial protagonist for this exercise (I'll revive him for the main story, don't worry.) Nasty characters create drama, tension, urgency. In this case, Amos' life is in peril. Arnold is going to shoot him dead. I have to be willing to write a character who is willing to shoot what amounts to a blind teenager to death if I want to have any suspension other than ‘Amos stops a whiny manchild who pouts and calls everyone bad names and makes them feel bad about themselves and be all :( :( :(’.

    Make us hate the dog-kicker. That feeling you have for the dog? That's exactly what you want us to feel, so when you kill the guy off we feel catharsis over it. Look at Harry Potter for an obvious example. Why do the readers hate Umbridge more than Voldemort himself? Because she was a very nasty character who directly hurt the characters we came to love and care about. If all she did was act like Snape with boobs (you're welcome) then...what use would she have been for the fifth book?

    Make your characters suffer. Make the readers hate the characters causing the suffering. Make them wish those characters die a slow, painful death.
     
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  10. tumblingdice
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    tumblingdice Member

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    I never thought I could bring myself to write nasty characters, but now I'm actually enjoying it. There's a perverse fascination in developing a character completely detached from yourself and have them do horrible things over and over. It certainly takes my mind off the pressure of making my nice characters likable.
     
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  11. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    <in dark voice>
    Gooooood.... Goooooooooooood....

    Let the hate flow through you, Dice. Let your characters know the Dark Side of the Force.
     
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  12. BC Barry
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    BC Barry Member

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    Honestly, at first I didn't want people I knew (who might eventually read my book) to think I had such horrible thoughts swimming around in my head. But then I realized that if I made the evil one too mild, that would make my hero look like an overly dramatic drama queen in the throes of PMS, be they male or female. The hero would eventually have to destroy the evil one so there's got to be a good reason for it.

    For example:
    The evil one scowled viciously at the dog. Hero's eyes widened as he gasped in shock at the sight before him. How could anyone be so cruel? What type of person would treat an innocent animal in such a horrific manner? This evil man needed to be stopped before he did more harm.

    The clueless pup, not understanding the meaning of the scowl, happily wagged its tail and nosed evil one's hand before giving it a friendly lick. Outraged at the affront, the evil one pushed the dogs head away and lifted his hand out of reach. How dare this stupid beast contaminate his person in such a way.

    "Enough!" Hero shouted in disgust. "I've spent my life destroying evil such as yours. And I will not stand idly by and allow this to continue. You've caused enough harm here today. By all that I am, I swear to stop you from ever hurting another living thing in such a horrible manner!"

    I know that's extreme, but it was actually fun to write. As a reader, which person would you most likely empathize with? lol

    Another way that helps me is to think of my villain as the electric company or heating oil company. They are the true sadistic fiends of our time.
     
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