In my Welcome post, I let you know that some of my favorite quotes are about the writing life. Today, I want to look at one of those quotes, and see how it affects both the writer and their readers.
“The story…must be a conflict, and specifically, a conflict between the forces of good and evil within a single person.”…Maxwell Anderson
Who among us hasn’t turned our heads to see sitting atop our shoulders a haloed cherub on one side, and mischievous sprite on the other? I can only speak for myself, but I know in my life I have shown great goodness and I have also done things that are unforgivable. I’m sure there are people out there who have never done things that compare with my worst, and I’m not saying that makes them boring or one dimensional…but they probably wouldn’t be my first choice to pattern a character after either.
As a reader, I’m not going to gravitate toward a character who is either all good or pure evil.
When it comes to evil characters, it’s more important to me that I understand what makes them do what they do instead of some miraculous moment of redemption.
One example that comes to mind is Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series. Draco is obviously horrible. He torments Harry and his friends religously…but he’s been spoon-fed hate by his father and constantly threatened by Voldemort, and so it’s easy to understand why he does what he does. He is young, impressionable and a coward. But by the end of the series, he starts to think for himself and we get the impression that he is capable of changing.
Two of my favorite characters are Scarlet O’Hara and Holly Golightly. These women cause pain and bring joy to everyone around them – and we love them. Why? Because we watch them suffer and then succeed. We watch as they make the worst possible choices and suffer the consequences, and we watch them grow and sometimes reap success – but they’re never ensured a happy ending and that feels like real life.
Who are some characters you can think of that are either so good or so bad, that we end up just not caring about them at all?