Discussion in 'Character Development' started by The Bishop, Mar 9, 2018.
I need gelp making my characters good and evil, I'm crap at doing it
Well, as far as binary character traits go, good vs. evil is about as basic as it gets, so I'd start simple. Have the character help some old ladies across the street but run others over with his/her truck. The same can be applied to puppies, orphans, and hipsters if you like.
Psychopaths have little-to-no ability to empathize with other people, and it's impossible for a psychopath to care about another person except as a means to his own ends.
Most people who hurt others are not psychopaths. Most people who hurt others have a short-list of people that they care about, and they only hurt people who are not on the list.
The White Nationalists in 1930s-1940s Germany believed that they were averting an imagined White Genocide by defending themselves against an imagined leftist / Jewish / globalist / Cultural Marxist conspiracy.
First of all, I never recommend writing a psychopath. They are too unstable and entirely unknown to most readers. Even a sociopath is a huge step up. While psychopaths just are those who are exceedingly violent due to a mental condition, sociopaths are just people who refuse to conform to societies morals, but can still have their own. It just makes your villain a lot more believable.
Also, most of the time evil people don't look at themselves as evil.
Most people do hurt others.
To make a character both good and evil I'd probably start by trying to remember the most disinterested things I've done for others, and my most selfish, ugly moments.
It must require a certain gift at mastering nuances, though, making a character both good and evil. The most obvious thing I guess is someone who is aggressive and comes across as being unkind to most people because they've been badly damaged, but is not that person.
most people are complex - famously Hitler loved dogs. It is very unusual for someone to be totally evil or totally good, most people (and thus most decent characters) are a balance of both. Even sociopaths can be heroes in wartime
I wouldn't characterise myself as a good man or a bad man - I'm just a man. I generally try to do the right thing and to do good things, but I have in the past been a complete bastard to partners, I've made decisions (for the right reasons by my reckoning) that nether the less harmed people ... such as deciding to make an employee redundant to try and save a project for folding ... right for the project and its other employees, but bad for the person who got let go.
Are we talking in the sense of making characters morally gray, where it's rather hard to pin them to one side or the other? Or are we talking about ensuring good characters have some flaws and evil characters have some virtues?
The latter is a bit easier than the former. You only need a handful of flaws or virtues if you're fine with the character still leaning one way.
For example, the primary protagonist of my published short fiction is traditionally good in many ways, but due to a history of friends dying she pushes them away and tries to deal with threats on her own. That puts her in unnecessary danger and gives her friends the impression she doesn't trust them, straining their relationships. There are some other flaws, but that's a persistent one that remains even after a few positive change character arcs.
For an evil person with limited positive traits, Hitler already got brought up. A genocidal dictator, but he still loved dogs, got along quite well with children, deeply loved his mother (to the point he protected the Jewish doctor who tried and failed to save her), and had romantic relationships. These positive traits don't balance out the bad, but they do remind you that was a human being, not some inhuman monster.
The former is tricky, since gray characters require a rough balance of their good and bad traits. Too many virtues or too many flaws will push them out of gray territory. You can look at people like Tyrion Lannister or Catwoman (from the 90s or so onward especially) for examples of this done well. When it comes to audience perception, a charming personality seems particularly effective at balancing out whatever murky things they might get up to.
Good people they fight against urges to do evil -- blackmailing someone to get a promotion, slapping a spouse in anger, poisoning a neighbors noisy dog etc. They think about these things but they've been either raised with some moral standards or they've collected them over the years from a loving spouse or good friend -- or may be by hitting bottom and realizing having some standards works in the long run.
Bad people give in repeatedly to their urges and rather than feel the guilt a good person does they make excuses, point fingers, and generally feel no sense of shame or remorse. They're a totally a self-justifying person.
Depending on what kind of story your writing I wouldn't think in terms of evil villain or good protagonist -- it's too limiting.
I tend to think in terms of protagonist and antagonist.
In my WIP my main character is a 14 year old boy who blackmails a director into being his father. The director uses the boys creativity to make his come-back a success
and as no urge to be his father. Nobody is a hero per say -- the boy is doing the wrong thing to get what he wants -- and the other mc isn't a villain just because he won't roll over and play dad. Essentially their two selfish people who need to work it out before disaster strikes.
What does your mc want?
How does your protagonist stand in the mc's way of getting what he wants?
Those are both very ambiguous terms. First, I'd suggest considering what you want the good and evil characters to be doing in the context of your story. For example, a gritty detective drama, an epic fantasy saga and a romance will have different standards for what good and evil will mean for that story. Another thing worth remembering is that evil people seldom regard themselves as evil--they're more likely to consider themselves good than the actual good people, who will probably experience doubt and will question themselves.
I think this and the nine linked pages is a good starting point--it's a series of essays on the nine Dungeons & Dragons alignments that could be useful to consider when thinking about someone's moral outlook. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CharacterAlignment
I think everyone who's responded so far kind of agrees already those are two very ambiguous terms. Human beings are essentially both "good" and "evil".
My understanding of The Bishop's question (which may be incorrect, by the way), is that they'd want to maybe exaggerate these two traits in one specific character, and do that well.
Cheers for the link!
Did you mean one good and the other one evil or one character being both? Lecter is both, Superman is good, Cruella de Vil is evil.
What you're talking about is nuance. It's hard to pull off, but it requires one thing: The ability to listen to and understand an opposing view.
Could elaborate further with your words?
At the risk of beating a dead horse, humans are rarely 100% one or the other. With the right motive we can all be anything. For example, if someone were to murder my dog then I would likely have no qualm about returning the favor on the person who harmed my pet. For myself, it boils down to: don't fuck with what I love. I like to think of myself as a somewhat decent person, but I know that there's a breaking point in all of us.
Recall the Nazi belief in a global Jewish-Bolshevist-Capitalist conspiracy to subvert, oppress, and destroy the Aryan race? Well, Hitler and most of his inner circle truly, deeply believed in it. They truly thought they were saving the world. Most of the time, awful people really do think of themselves as heroes. In the case of the Nazis, their defeat took on apocalyptic tones to the true believers.
ISIS is much the same. They truly believe slavery, genocide of everyone who doesn't follow their version of Islam or submit to second class status, terrorism, and global conquest is necessary to ultimately bring about Paradise. And this belief leads them to do things that don't make sense on the surface, like antagonizing almost every major power in the world.
I'm afraid the terms 'good' and 'evil' is our way of rationalizing and assessing certain types of human behavior and actions. That being said, I don't think we can easily come up with a definition of what is 'evil' and what is 'good'. Even the person (or character) we perceive as totally evil will think themselves as such but will have some sort of rationalization and justification for their acts. 'Evil' inevitably comes as a result of certain types of actions, which are in most cases contrary to moral and ethical norms and are, in some way harmful for other individuals or society as a whole.
In literature, 'evil' characters are often needed as a counter-balance to the hero who must overcome them in order to triumph. On the other hand, an antagonist doesn't need to be necessarily evil, just someone with a different perspective (and interests) than the main protagonist.
The interesting thing is that our post-modern society is obsessed with moral ambiguity and 'grey' characters are very popular nowadays. As an author, you have to make a decision whether you want to portray the world as it is or as you want it to be (or think should be), or something in between.
No, it's that his statement doesn't reflect Nazi beliefs. He's applying very anachronistic terms onto them. They were white supremacists, obviously, but not white nationalists (were the Poles not white?). And Nazism was formed largely in opposition to actual Marxism, which I suppose technically was 'leftist,' 'globalist,' and 'culturally Marxist'... but it doesn't convey the gravity of Bolsheviks actively overthrowing governments next door.
Not sure if I can add much, since everyone else has done a pretty good job of summing it up. I might just be repeating what others wrote but to give my two cents, from a personal perspective.
When I write my characters, I don't establish good or evil just who the person is, which are a bit subjective. First you would have to determine what is considered Good and What is Considered Evil, then whose perception is it coming from, there have been quite a few notorious figures in history who believed themselves to be the "Good" Guy. And not to many, if any, would categories themselves as the bad guy but rather their opponent as such.
But having written that, my Characters behave in a way that is natural to them, They have a tendency to do things from both "Good" and "Evil" , they may be generous times such as protecting the weak, rescuing innocent people, etc. but then later on show great cruelty even to the point of going against their own nature. Such as enslaving a Creature to protect Humanity, even though the MC in question despises slavery.
Whiteness has more or less always been a social construct. Slavs weren't considered white in the first half of the 1900s, by and large. Certainly not by most people concerned with race. So the Nazis were white nationalists, though only by their definition of white.
But they didn't think of the master race as being 'the white race.' I don't recall them claiming that Poles or Russians weren't true white people, only that they were inferior to Germanic people.
All the racialists at the time excluded Slavs from being white. And some (such as the Nazis) considered them subhuman.
Of course, none of this stopped the Nazis from enlisting Slavic auxiliaries.
OH man, your guys conversation isn't even related to the OT anymore, can you guys take it somewhere else. I believe there is a section for that.
Don't just make characters 'evil' or 'good'. Give each important character a complex personal motivation and moral code. Evil characters will be the ones whose moral codes allow for them to harm innocent people for personal gain, while good characters will have moral codes that forbid harming others unless there's a very strong justification for doing so.
In addition, sometimes the difference between a character being seen as 'good' or 'evil' depends solely on how you portray the people they're affecting with their actions. For example, take a character from race A who will always defend members of race A who are in need, but kills race B on sight. Whether they're a hero or a villain in your readers' eyes will depend on whether your readers sympathise more with race A or race B. For example, the human paladin who kills goblins and protects humans is usually portrayed as a good guy, but if goblins are generally good guys in your story, or your MC is a goblin or sympathizes with goblins, then that paladin starts looking like a villain.
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