Monday, November 22, 2010

Liking Characters

Should bad guys have something about them that makes them likeable? Some people say yes, but I have a hard time saying that is true in all cases. We certainly need our protagonist to be such that readers can identify with him, but I don’t think that’s always the case with the villain. There’s nothing wrong with having a villain that people like or identify with, but one way to look at a story is to see it as a protagonist facing a series of challenges. When we first see these challenges, we may not know who is opposing the protagonist. We might have a villain who is creating these challenges off camera, so all we know about the villain are the challenges the protagonist faces. We can’t be expected to like these challenges. So, your mother died. Yippee!

Once the villain makes an appearance, we may already know enough about him that we don’t like him and have no intention of identifying with him. That’s okay. It’s okay if the reader despises the guy. It may not be a comfortable feeling for the reader, but it also provides strong emotion. The stronger the emotions a reader feels the better, even if that emotion is great fear that a character they hate will win.