Home » Creative Revolution » Negative or Brutal Characters

Negative or Brutal Characters

I started watching the 2014 Canada Reads program because a Canadian friend recommended it. And where I am in the recording they are talking about ugly characters, mean and brutal characters.

When you write a scene, a chapter or a novel about characters who violate others in one way or another, how do you approach them? Do you try to humanize them so the reader can understand their brokenness? Do you portray them as sinister, unacceptable fiends?

And how do you personally feel about those characters?

The panel in Canada Reads is talking about Margaret Atwoods’ The Year of the Flood, a post-apocalyptic story filled with ugly characters. I have stories kind of like this, and I get frustrated trying to make them both real and, if not humane, at least understandable.

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3 thoughts on “Negative or Brutal Characters

  1. I do everything I can to make my characters as multi-dimensional as possible, but then I don’t typically write stories with characters that are clearly good and clearly evil. My stories are just about people — warts and all. I hope.

  2. Hmmm … good question! I can say that, from a reading/watching perspective, cruel characters who are TOO humanized really grate on my nerves. This is going to sound like a silly reference, but on the show Once Upon a Time, there’s the Evil Queen (ala Snow White). She does absolutely horrible things — slaughtering entire villages, ruining people’s lives just for the fun of it, etc. And yet the writers insist on giving her a tragic back story and having characters sympathize with her … and then she turns right around and makes their lives miserable, and they are mad for a bit and then forgive her again because they’re such wonderful, forgiving people. At some point you just want to grab them and shake and say “People! Having a tragic back story doesn’t give you the right to kill people!”

    Ahem. In conclusion, I think it’s great to humanize evil characters … so long as you don’t go totally overboard with it 🙂

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