From Sarah, With Joy

Writer querying two novels and some other word babies. I tend to effervesce.

New post every Monday

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Writing Characters You Disagree With

This is something I've been thinking about recently.

A lot of times we create our stories and our characters based on ourselves, and things we feel the need to say. A lot of times our characters are ways for us to portray and defend out particular point of view. That's as it should be, I think. One of the greatest things about stories is that they provide a chance for our voices to be heard, via our characters. Being open in this way allows the story to connect with its readers who feel the same way. Like our good pal C. S. Lewis said, "We read to know we're not alone."

But.

What about characters you disagree with?

And I'm not talking about straw men characters--dumb, useless characters that "represent" the opposing point of view just so you can knock it down. I'm talking about really intelligent, engaging characters who fundamentally see the world differently than you do.

(Speaking of gorgeous, brilliant, fantastically written characters who see the world much more pessimistically than I wish to...)

This is an interesting challenge to think about, and honestly, I'm not sure it could ever be done perfectly, since we are in fact the ones creating all our characters. However it might be worthwhile to think about and try.

I think there are lots of different ways to do this. Your opposing viewpoint character could eventually come around to your perspective, or not. Or maybe, and this is perhaps my preferred method, your two characters eventually talk things through and realize that many of the areas they thought they disagreed on, they actually have a lot in common. Maybe your opposing viewpoint character isn't even looking for your main character to change their mind necessarily, they're just looking for some sympathy and validation. Maybe that's the journey your main character needs to go on--finding the right way to give the other characters the sympathy and validation they need. Maybe both characters have a lot of growing and changing to do.

So give this a try. Maybe something surprising will come out of it.

Have you ever written a character you disagree with? What characters from books or movies do you disagree with but also love?

Sarah Allen

17 comments:

  1. I wrote a horror flash fic recently titled "The Day She Came to Hate the NRA," despite the fact that I tilt slightly in favor of the NRA's existence. I can do this because it's more of a display of how someone can become anti-gun through witnessing gun violence than an outright anti-gun story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, that sounds interesting! I think it could be a valuable exercise to take something like that and write about it from the opposite perspective, like you did.

      Delete
    2. Did your character come to think the NRA was okay after all? :-)

      Delete
  2. Writing 'evil' characters is probably the ultimate example of this. The antagonist in my psychological thriller novel has always intrigued me. It has been a labour of love to weave a character from parts we understand and empathise with, and parts thrown in there, hopefully not too obviously at first, that are potentially frightening ... a lack of empathy with people's suffering, for instance, combined with self-pity and self-justification. Charming but deadly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, yes. Charming but deadly, love it :)

      Delete
  3. I got a suggestion from a fellow critique group member that one of my main characters was TOO nice and I should find a way to create some tension with his character. I didn't much like him anyway, so I ran with it. I must say I enjoyed making him nasty. I still have no idea where the nasty came from, but it felt good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh, nice! Making characters nasty can be super fun :)

      Delete
    2. Yes saylingaway, I always think of Jane Austen's favourites among her characters - she loved Emma who was full of flaws - thinking about it she named some of her books after characters' flaws!

      Delete
  4. Yes. I have written two very despicable and thoroughly debased characters for a slush novella that someday may see the light of day. I've also written a victim within the same story that I've come to detest as well.


    Father Nature's Corner

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting. Lots of different types of characters can work with this idea.

      Delete
  5. I've never written one that ran polar opposite, but there are always attributes that I disagree with.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely, this can be a good way to add nuance and complexity to all your characters.

      Delete
  6. Historical fiction is especially interesting in this regard. You can't create a character who thinks twenty- first century style in the Middle Ages, for example. At the same time, you have to be able to create a character you and your readers can care about.

    ReplyDelete
  7. PS Is that Hugh Laurie in your photo? I'm used to him as a comedian, I'm afraid, especially in Blackadder, so have never got around to seeing him in that role.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed it is :) I know, he is brilliant in Blackadder, which only makes me admire his versatility even more. I love his comedy, but his work as House is heartwrenching.

      Delete
  8. When I first read this I thought of Hermoine and Ron in the Harry Potter series. They portray pollar opposites of Harry. Or so I've heard and believe. :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh, interesting! I hadn't thought if that way before, but yeah...they all balance each other out well.

      Delete

I absolutely love hearing from you! Thank you so, so much for your thoughts and comments, they really do make my day. Consider yourself awesome. Also, I do my best to respond to every comment within 24 hours, so I invite you to come back and continue the conversation :)

To have weekly posts delivered to your inbox, just sign up here!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...