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Zee

Lame Characters

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So, how do you all write about, or from the point of view of, a "bad" character? I don't mean a super-evil villain necessarily, maybe just someone who's not a good person...maybe totally lame. How do you make characters like that seem real and interesting, and not just like reading a manual for "What Not To Do?" Any ideas, or characters like this you've written?

 

Right now the middle third of my story focuses on two characters who aren't "nice" and I'm struggling to make this section feel real. 

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@suspensewriter, is right. You need to get into their head and figure out the whys to help you develop your character.

 

Maybe you bad guy believes he is fighting for a just cause. I'm not saying it is, just that he believes it.

 

Maybe your lame guy has always seen things done in a certain way and it worked. Perhaps the one time someone did it differently was a bad experience for him, and now he believes failure will happen if things are done differently. 

 

It does not need to be a perfect reason or even a good one. It only needs to fill two things. (Or more if someone thinks I missed something) 

 

1) It makes at least enough logical sense that we (the reader) can follow and understand it. We don't have to agree, but we must be able to comprehend it. 

 

2) The character must absolutely, unwaveringly believe it. They can be converted to something different in the story, but changing what they think without a sound logical reason is a big no-no. It's way too confusing for the reader and will end in people closing your book before they finish reading it. 

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10 hours ago, Zee said:

maybe just someone who's not a good person...maybe totally lame.

For this one, I'd make them really not care what happens. You know, they'd be the character working to save their own skin by not getting involved with either side of a major battle/conflict. He'd be the guy asking "Why does it matter? What I do/don't do won't change anything." Think Jack Sparrow.

 

10 hours ago, Zee said:

how do you all write about, or from the point of view of, a "bad" character?

Like SW said, you have to get into their head. And like Alley said, they have to have a logical reason for what they do, and they have to believe that reason. Think Thanos in Infinity War. He identified a problem and thought about it, and that led him to a conclusion that he believed fully in. That belief affected everything he did, and explained everything he did. (It agress with Alley's two points - we can understand it, and he fully believed it).

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Depending on your story, it could help to give the antagonist some redeeming qualities. Something that would make them more relateable, even somewhat likable, or downright charismatic, but ultimately wrong.

 

Isn't that the way it usually works in real life? I can think of very few Disney-type bad guys in the real world, unless the media is spinning them that way to create a more compelling news story (aka lazy journalism).  

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I'm not familiar with those character examples, but I get the idea. I guess I don't really enjoy writing from the "lame character" view...so this bit drags. I'd rather just write about my heroine and her family. Maybe I haven't had enough practice being lame. Not.

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1 hour ago, Zee said:

I'm not familiar with those character examples, but I get the idea. I guess I don't really enjoy writing from the "lame character" view...so this bit drags. I'd rather just write about my heroine and her family. Maybe I haven't had enough practice being lame. Not.

Lamo isn't really lame. He's misunderstood. 

 

How about stopping for a bit and writing a short story of Lamo as the good guy? Personally, I do this in my head more often than writing it out, but once I delve into the character's background, I can empathize more.

 

Pull Lamo out of his comfort zone, to find out why being lame is his comfort zone.

 

Warning: You might end up liking him... from a distance. (I usually only get to seeing what's likable about them. It doesn't mean I'd want to be friends IRL though. :$)

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I once read for a villain (or bad character) to really work, you must give them redeeming qualities-make them understandable, at least in their mind, as some have already pointed out.  The idea is to make them more than 1 or 2 dimensional so the reader can relate to them, or even like them in some way.  It also helps the writer, by giving him/her more avenues to explore.

 

One such character comes to mind--Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar.   You can almost understand his reasoning before he betrayed Jesus.  In his mind he is justified.

 

Lucifer is a main character in my novel.  What do you do with somebody who wants to destroy all of mankind and usurp the Creators from their own thrones?  I had to make his feelings and cause as real to him and his followers as possible--as well as, hopefully, make him likable to a point. 

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Just to clarify, "Lamos" 1&2 aren't actually villains/antagonists, just people whose choices I have trouble relating to. 

 

I realized while thinking about this that I don't really "do" villains in the classic sense. My antagonists tend to be adverse circumstances and/or internal struggles rather than bad individuals. I am almost certain I couldn't write convincingly about a real villain--perhaps because I've never met one.

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23 minutes ago, Zee said:

I am almost certain I couldn't write convincingly about a real villain--perhaps because I've never met one.

You're blessed.  I have-as well as quite few "Lamos".   I really pray you find your angle.  it sounds like they are a vital part to your story.

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All good advice given Zee in the posts.

 

Giving your lame character a strong belief system (even if it is one that causes upset to others) is vital as is the need for redeeming qualities. 

 

Think about their backstory too - is there a reason they are they way they are?  This can then be used as tool to either make the reader dislike the character more or be sympathetic.

 

I find writing for these guys a lot easier than writing for the hero/heroine. Not sure what that says about me🤔

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1 hour ago, Zee said:

I realized while thinking about this that I don't really "do" villains in the classic sense. My antagonists tend to be adverse circumstances and/or internal struggles rather than bad individuals. I am almost certain I couldn't write convincingly about a real villain--perhaps because I've never met one.

Like Becky said - you're blessed. 

 

Let me ask this - how do the adverse circumstances in your characters' lives start? Very often (or such is my limited experience in life) the adverse circumstances begin with a character acting in an adverse manner. By adverse, I mean contrary to the dreams/hopes/goals/desires of your protagonist(s). To paraphrase something from "The Shack" - When one man's good is opposed to another man's good, then wars and conflicts arise. Basically, if what is good by one man's standard is deemed to be evil by another, then you have conflict.

 

The best way to write someone who is not necessarily "good" is to give them a goal that is in opposition to that of your main character(s). Then begins a dance - your villain leads, your protagonist reacts, to which your villain reacts with something new, so your protagonist reacts to the new (or adapted) threat. 

 

You've mentioned before that you are comfortable writing short stories - use these to experiment with something that is new to you as a writer. 

 

Hope all this helps, @Zee

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28 minutes ago, Shamrock said:

Not sure what that says about me🤔

😳 I have killed some of them off in gruesome and painful ways. I don't know what that says about me. Not sure I wish to find out. 😁

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Oh, killing characters! That's something I'm really good at. I think I've done it...twice, maybe? But character-offing expertise depends on your preferred genre, I suppose.

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You might trying reading a book Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. She takes a character very opposed to my world view and makes him, at the very least, understandable. 

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Hi Zee! Great question. I'm dealing with that right now. The idea of "getting into the head" of an evil person really puts me off. But an unexpected thing happened this week as I was immobilized by a catch in my back and only had reading and thinking time:) 

 

 I had the entrance of my villain but no back story yet that explained his villainy and gave him street cred, and i didn't want to ask him for it:)

But I heard the Storygrid: "the middle build belongs to the villain". So I thought I'd better figure out the villain's story. To do that I needed to figure out the genre (per Storygrid) so I read and made a checklist from the differences in the genres I suspected and copied a checklist of conventions and obligatory scenes for those. I also copied summaries of the Color Code (personality paradigm) and figured out he's a red. Then I set about "listening" to the villain's story by asking questions from the story grid material. I got so much material I wondered if he deserves his own book 😂  But I think my protagonist's genre and my antagonist's genre will go together well in one book.

 

I'm sure writing it is another thing altogether but at least now there's some content to refer to. 

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Is it your Ilham story, Carolyn W? I hope so, because I'd like to read more of that. 

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6 hours ago, Carolyn W said:

It is. I'm studying some other authors' approach to writing about the people of that area. 

You are likely already familiar with it, but if not, I'd recommend "Kabul" by M.E. Hirsch. The story is not told from a believer's perspective, but even so, I think it's quite brilliant.

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I think that "lame" characters can be the most entertaining type of character if done right. As in, no one wants to be their friend, but good grief do we want to see more of them!

 

There's a reason why Jack Sparrow (mentioned by @Claire Tucker) and Loki are insanely popular characters. In fact, Johnny Depp was nominated for an Oscar for his first turn as Jack Sparrow (and it was the first comedic Oscar nomination in ages).

 

They have three main traits in common:

 

1) They are self-serving

2) They occasionally help the good guys for their own interests 

   - a sub-point: this helps the audience identify with them, since they end up rooting for them at points - then, when they make a turn, the audience often gets mad and wants them to turn back to the side of good - therefore the character is constantly on audience radar

3) They are insanely clever 

 

I think the cleverness is key. It give the audience something to admire about the character even as they're mad about the character's choices. It also keeps the audience on their toes since they're waiting to see what the character will do. 

 

Just some thoughts!

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