During our lives, people have accused us of bad behavior. We are usually aware of our own failures during our improper actions but continue on our deceitful course. Such activities range from murder to a gentleman tipping his hat to an unescorted lady. Of course, my four blog readers and I consider ourselves well within the normal range and would harm nobody or tip their hat. Who still wears hats?
However, I know fully that my definition of normal is not the same as other “normal” people. For example, I occasionally drink beer. I do this activity, knowing that even small amounts of alcohol will damage my body, and drinking impairs judgment. Does this make me a bad person? Many people abstain from alcohol for health or ethical reasons. In their view, I have corrupt morals, and I require a life change.
I find it interesting that we all perceive ourselves to be normal people. But what about a person who has crossed a sizeable ethical line? A thief, for example. I am sure they view themselves as normal in some twisted way.
Why am I blogging about this? Let’s consider a good villain character. I like one that has been pushed right up to, but not over the point of being evil. Where is the line? Here is an example. Stan is a drug dealer. He occasionally sells at raves and works at a supermarket. Stan thinks of himself as a good person who is providing a service. He has a problem with his morals, but he mostly leads a good life. Ordinary people might enjoy talking to Stan.
Joe is also a drug dealer. He sells anything to anybody and manipulates kids into being addicted or selling his junk. Joe does not care about anybody and is an evil person. Normal people would use all available means to get Joe into prison.
Let’s examine this concept a little further with somebody we might encounter. A bad coworker eats your yogurt in the common office refrigerator. An evil coworker takes a dollar out of your desk drawer. On the surface, they are the same because the yogurt costs a dollar. Yet, one coworker has crossed an ethical line and could be considered evil.
Plots often revolve around inappropriate behavior. The moral character behaves poorly and then reconciles their offensive actions. On the other side, an honest character defends themselves against an immoral or evil character. This concept has many twists, including the anti-hero.
My bad villains must see themselves as normal. Take, for example, our yogurt stealing coworker. I am sure in their mind, they have all kinds of justification. “I thought your brought yogurt for everybody.” Their twisted logic is full of internal failings, which provide a juicy character for readers to loth.
I do not impart positive qualities in my evil characters because readers must view them as committed to the wrong path.
What about the bad/evil villain who wants to better their lives? For example, the bully who sees the harm caused by their actions. I try to avoid this character because readers must set a negative character foundation. Steve hit Sally and smiled. Who wants to make Steve into a character we enjoy? Send Steve to jail.
I was about to write that I have yet to explore anti-hero characters. Such characters require a light touch that can quickly fail. Creating an anti-hero seems to be easy. A police officer breaks the law to catch the criminal. In movies like the recent Deadpool series, humor is used to bridge the gap. However, this concept can fizzle like in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Another problem with the anti-hero is that they break the law, which leads to an unresolved conflict.
As I wrote this blog, I realized that my first book has two anti-heroes. They murder for the benefit of society (from their viewpoint.) I find it amusing that I had not considered them to be anti-heroes. Wow, this blog taught me something.
For my positive characters, I like it when they fail in a bad way. We are all human and have built-in limitations. It is normal to set a standard and then fail to live up to our own expectations. It is also normal to take some pleasure in intentionally doing something we know is wrong. After we fail, we reconcile our failures and then attempt to rebuild our lives. I like this internal conflict because it has universal appeal.
Inappropriate behavior is fun to explore, but I treat it with caution. A writer can go too far into a bad story. Readers have a limit to what they will accept or relate to. In life and story, there are many pitfalls.
You’re the best -Bill
October 21, 2020
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