Saturday, September 29, 2012

To know him is to love him--and hate him

A few days ago my local writers group got a couple new members. One of them asked me about a comment I made about loving my characters and writing them well. He asked if I thought it was impossible to write a character well if I disliked that character.

That's an interesting question. In my novel WIP, the antagonist, Tony, is a bit problematic because I don't fully understand why he's so obstructionist to Neal. They live on opposite coasts; while he has West Coast "associates", Neal doesn't do anything that interferes with them or with Tony himself. Neal doesn't even know about Tony for most of the book.

So it's hard for me to categorically say I don't like him. But, as far as I do know him, I can say that I intellectually don't like him because he's done some pretty awful things. He's the reason Neal's mother abandoned him. He knew how rotten Neal's life turned out and did nothing to help. He's a crooked cop who sells drugs on the side.

Emotionally, I like him because he's one of the people who help me shoot flaming arrows into the tree I've chased Neal up. Conflict! If it fits the story, throw it at the MC! Most of us love a good bad guy, and Tony's got the potential to be a favorite of mine if I figure out the rest of the details.

Personally, I have to like a character for some reason in order to write him or her well. Back in the 70s and 80s when my sister and I wrote space opera, there were a few characters of mine that I came to dislike. When that happened I found I didn't care what they did or why they did it, so if that happens, the character is not going to seem realistic.

How about you? Do write characters even though you don't like them? Do you think you could tell if you read something that had a character the author disliked?


  1. I've disliked character actions, but always found one small reason to like them- even if it was witty comments.

  2. That's a good point--dialogue. Sometimes the main reason I like another writer's character is the particularly clever way they say things.

    Thanks for commenting, Summer!