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By dynamic, I mean they aren’t just Evil Stepmother or Big Bad Wolf evil. They have to have positive traits despite doing bad things to the MC.

 

My WIP short story has a single mother Iris who 34 years old an is highly neglectful of her 9-yo son Pip and 13-yo daughter Fable. She worked as a waitress in a failing small town diner until she gets fired for stealing money. Then she leaves Pip and Fable alone in a motel for a few days while she answers an audition for a big shot director in Hollywood, because that was her dream before she got pregnant and dropped out of college.

 

Oh, did I mention that Fable is only deaf because Iris left her in an infected swimming pool as a baby and she developed meningitis?

 

I need to make Iris despicable, yet have some positive traits. Any ideas for positive traits I can give her?

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3 hours ago, Wesley Southern said:

They have to have positive traits despite doing bad things to the MC.


I think this is genre-dependent. We see no such allowance for villains in Thrillers.

In today's Zoom webinar, Planning The Perfect Thriller, Robert McKee said the following of Thriller Antagonists:
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1.     Antagonists have the Spirit of Evil.

They exhibit Rationalization, things they convince themselves of. But their true compulsion is Sadism, doing evil for the purpose of doing evil. They love inflicting pain on others. Evil begins in childhood when a young mind is driven by a profound but subconscious dread of death. It does something to them. It doesn’t have to be abuse. It’s an obsession with death and damnation. What they discover is by taking a life, the fear-filled mind feels a momentary power over death. They feel, for the moment, they’ve conquered death, but it needs to be repeated. It may start with squashing insects, then torturing animals, then bullying on the playground, then bullying partners, then serial killings. The Sadist grows more and more desperate to escape death by inflicting suffering on others. This pleasure begins addictive. The Marquis De Sade wrote “Through cruelty…”

For the villain, the practical ends of torture are secondary to the transcendence of inflicting pain on others. 

What does evil want? Evil wants to reverse nature. When a normal human being faces a lethal threat, they beg for life. But faced with such evil, the Antagonist wants to make such a normal being beg for death. Evil represents Damnation, and a normal being subjected to a state of such intense suffering would find that being put out of existence would be a mercy.

The difference here, as I said, goes to genre. The content of a Thriller is psychological warfare, one mind preying on another mind. The villain uses all kinds of techniques in this warfare.

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1 hour ago, Wesley Southern said:

Any ideas for positive traits I can give her?

Since you're writing from Pip's and Fable's POVs, it's possible they might not recognize any positive traits she has.

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I agree with both @HK1 and @William D'Andrea. The kids won't probably see their mother's talents because of how she's treated them. It would be very hard for them to, I imagine.

 

Then again, you could maybe put a bit in where Pip hears his mom singing or something and thinks she has the voice of an angel but a spirit from the devil.

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1 hour ago, Ky_GirlatHeart said:

I agree with both @HK1 and @William D'Andrea. The kids won't probably see their mother's talents because of how she's treated them. It would be very hard for them to, I imagine.

 

Then again, you could maybe put a bit in where Pip hears his mom singing or something and thinks she has the voice of an angel but a spirit from the devil.

 

Iris is a narcissist who demands the fealty of her children. They better come up with a compliment or they’ll be toast 🤐

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2 minutes ago, Wesley Southern said:

Iris is a narcissist who demands the fealty of her children. They better come up with a compliment or they’ll be toast 

So...Pip could compliment her singing? Or another factor, such as her cooking?

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13 hours ago, Wesley Southern said:

ahahah

 

she gets free food from working at a diner 

Oh, well...Maybe Pip could think that the food comes from his mom's cooking??

 

13 hours ago, Wesley Southern said:

not gonna lie, I'm hoping this story breaks a few hearts 

Yikes. It might break mine; so I'm interested. 😄

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17 hours ago, Wesley Southern said:

By dynamic, I mean they aren’t just Evil Stepmother or Big Bad Wolf evil. They have to have positive traits despite doing bad things to the MC.

 

Do they?

 

The concept of "complex" characters is a bit of a modern invention.  Sometimes the best part about showing evil is twisting what we deem as virtue into something wholly wrong.

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