“Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.
Hi, guys! Or...should I say, (snags weathered copy of Teach Yourself French: a Complete Course in Understanding, Speaking and Writing by Gaelle Graham) Salut, madames et monsieurs!
Things have been beyond busy the past, well, about a month now, which hopefully explains why I have been such a horrible blog runner. My summer job on an assembly line making semi-truck engines has begun, making me mad money but also chewing up about eleven hours of daytime. Then paperwork for study abroad at the University of Nottingham comes into play because I'm not 100% sure what's going on half the time, and I'm also editing a novel called Monet Evanesce and then there's the whole spend-time-with-family/go outside to soak up Vitamin D conundrum. But here I am, with a new Round Robin for June!
Topic: Every person has good and bad traits, everyone does both good and bad things and we certainly have plenty of examples emerging from our various media. There is a precipice each character stands on--one side is too good to be true, the other side too evil to exist. What makes a character too good to believe? How evil can a main character become before they are irredeemable?
This thought line has been swirling around in my brain lately. Playing around for the ultimate, complicated character is like riding a bike across a tightrope; once you got it, you've got to be really, really, really careful. When I was twelve or thirteen, I wrote my characters like cutouts of light and shadow. A story about selkies (sort of like mermaids but with seal skins) housed a character named Keith Brennan. Apparently Keith was a dark and sinister name to twelve-year-old me; he was also a vampire and kept selkies captive, etc....the point was, he literally snuck around in the shadows and smirk/chuckled way too much. I think he might've even rubbed his palms together. But that's the opposite of the question, I suppose--what makes a character too good to be true?
I suffered this problem a few years later with a character who originally operated under the nickname Sparks. He later got rewritten with the name Andro. He's a hero literally and figuratively: he saved lives, fought for his sanity, was unflinchingly kind in the face of adversity...and utterly unreal. He was all sugar, which was fantastic for my fourteen-year-old self, and the same went for my heroine. Considered a monster, she nonetheless perceived everything with innocent doe eyes because--aha--she was good and I thought good meant she had to be unfailingly nice. We all know that good is much more complicated than that. I ended rewriting nearly the entire story, stripping my two MCs bare except for hard cores of character traits, and added on truths: Andro sometimes let his unhappiness speak for him, suffering paranoia and panic attacks. My heroine was slow to trust and navigated on prejudices. They were good at heart, but also real, true and reactive to their past experiences.
As for how evil a main character can become before they become irredeemable, an MC of mine comes to mind. This past year and a half I've pushed my characters darker than I'd ever even considered--and not to cartoon darkness. Not that faux, flouncing stage evil that cloaks itself in cackles and teeth-baring grins. The character in mind from my new WIP, and I adore him. His named is Evrard Moulin, he's an ex-Impressionist artist, and he's both horrible and fatherly, jealous and generous. A supremely unhappy alcoholic whose life never turned out how he wanted, he performs acts that endear him and acts that inadvertently lead to the death of someone he considers family. He is rude, boisterous, a bit conniving--but not despicable. He has a reason for what he does (or, at least, HE thinks he has a good reason). And I think that's the point.
What about you? Have you ever teared up over a villain? Snorted with derision at a chipper main character?
Ponder the virtues with these other authors, if you have the philosophical stomach for it: